Small business owners in D.C. who are struggling to stay afloat amid the staffing shortage created by the omicron variant and the “great resignation” are getting a boost through grant funding.
The $40 million Bridge Fund Grant Program will prioritize restaurants, entertainment and retail brick-and-mortar businesses and food trucks that haven’t received federal relief funds.
“Businesses just need relief at this point, especially given the challenging times we’re all facing with this variant. And I think they saw a drop off in business … in mid-December. And it hasn’t rebounded yet to what they saw, you know, as they were recovering in 2021,” Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio told WTOP.
Initially, the second round of the Bridge Fund was envisioned as a program to offer small businesses a way to pay their back rent. However, Falcicchio said his office worked with the D.C. Council over the fall to build in options for business owners to utilize the funding.
“If they have back rent, they’re supposed to use 50% of the grant for that back rent, up to 100% of what’s due. But they can also use it for labor costs, for inventory. And really, this is meant to give them that flexibility, given what we’re dealing with with the variant,” Falcicchio said.
Many businesses in D.C. have had trouble maintaining a full shift of staff given the transmissibility of the omicron variant, with a more shallow pool of applicants to choose from.
“I saw again, anecdotally, just more businesses, when they couldn’t pull it together, just saying, ‘It might be better for us to close, come back in, you know, 10 days or so. After we have the staffing,'” he said.
The grants will range from $20,000 to $100,000 per business. The program that will be run out of Falcicchio’s office will prioritize awards to businesses that have not received federal relief funds and microbusinesses with $2.5 million or less in revenue.
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