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Westfield has additional funds to help small business and residents

Peter J. Miller, Director of Community Development for the City of Westfield. (WNG File Photo)

WESTFIELD – Community Development Director Peter J. Miller said this week that the city has an additional $50,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for restaurants and small businesses that have been hurt by COVID-19 closures, and will be starting a new program next week for rent and mortgage assistance of up to three months for residents that have lost income due to COVID-19.

“People haven’t necessarily been reaching out,” Miller said, but when he goes out and talks to restaurant owners, for example, they tell him they are having pretty significant challenges, especially with the new guidelines of 25 percent capacity. He said for restaurants that are able to do takeout, that is a saving grace.

The CDBG grants of up to $10,000 are intended to help small businesses for the next couple of months, until restrictions relax. There are income eligibility requirements, as well as being able to retain jobs for a 90-day period following receipt of the grant. For more information on the grants or for an application, contact the office of Community Development at 413-572-6244 or by emailing Leanne Cloutier at [email protected]

In addition, Miller said his office will begin to refer restaurants and other small businesses to a new federally-funded state program that Governor Charlie Baker announced last week, which is particularly focussed on hospitality, and is run by the Mass. Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC).

According to information from the state, these funds will be used for two purposes: first, to make awards to qualified, existing applicants that did not receive grants in the first round of the MGCC Small Business Grant program, and second, to accept new applications from businesses in targeted industries, including restaurants, bars, indoor recreation and entertainment establishments, gyms and fitness centers, personal services, and others.

Eligible businesses that already applied to the MGCC Small Business Grant Program, but were not funded due to limited funds available, will be prioritized for funding first and do not need to reapply. The online application portal for the new program will open on Thurs., Dec. 31, and will close on Fri., Jan. 15. Awards are expected to be announced in early February.

More information on this program may be found at empoweringsmallbusiness.org.

Miller said the city has also just received $237,000 of CDBG COVID funds for the residential assistance program, which they hope to start next week. “Hopefully, we’ll be up and running the first week of January to help families make mortgage payments,” Miller said.

There are certain income guidelines for the program, which include lost income due to COVID-19. The program will be run by the Valley Opportunity Council in Chicopee, which also runs Westfield’s fuel assistance program.

“We’re looking to provide three to four months of assistance,” Miller said, adding that the city has been fortunate that the federal government has more than doubled its annual appropriation due to COVID-19. “We’re able to do more than we have been able to over the past few years,” he said.

To access the residential assistance program, residents may call the Valley Opportunity Council at 413-552-1554, or go online for more information or to schedule an appointment at Valleyopp.com.

“I think we’re in for it for the foreseeable future, through February and March. There is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, but people need to get there to see it. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to provide some assistance through March until things return to some sort of normalcy. Our resources are limited, but we’re fortunate to have more than we have in the past,” Miller said.

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