City says eligibility requirements for $5 million in small business relief coming by end of month

The Board of Aldermen approved the funding in August, but the city has yet to provide eligibility requirements or distribute any money.
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 6:44 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The City of St. Louis said it will release eligibility requirements for $5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding aimed at helping small businesses later this month.

The city’s Board of Aldermen appropriated $5 million for the Small Business Relief Fund as part of Board Bill 2, which was passed and signed by the mayor in August 2021. The bill appropriated a total of $130 million of the city’s first installment of $250 million in ARPA funding. It will receive another $250 million later this spring.

A spokesperson for the mayor provided the timeline on Tuesday and said once eligibility requirements are released in late March, the application process will begin.

“What I don’t understand is what’s taking so long to actually get the money out the door to people that need it,” Steven Swartz, co-owner of Café de Blaire at the corner of Fourth Street and Washington Avenue, said.

News 4 reached out to the city after business owners eager to apply for some of the relief money, like Swartz, questioned why the rollout was taking is long.

“It’s been approved so let’s distribute it please,” he said.

Swartz said when Board Bill 2 passed last August, he and his wife were hopeful some grant money would help them survive the winter. Instead, they cut hours and some staff members in order to make it through, unable to get any information about eligibility for the ARPA funding.

They opened the coffee and ice cream shop in August 2020, after originally planning to open in April 2020.

“We were already quite a bit of money into this process and really didn’t have a choice,” he said. “Walk away from our life savings or give it a go.”

Despite the struggles they’ve faced, Swartz said they’ve built up a solid group of regular customers and are excited for events and Cardinals baseball to return to downtown.

“Our regulars help us bring enough in to break even, but where we really start to even think about making a profit is when events and conferences come to downtown,” he said.

Craig Phelps brings his dog to the coffee shop everyday, getting a pup cup for his four-legged friend and a coffee for himself.

“He will pull me and my partner from anywhere within the city if he’s on a walk, he will pull us here” he said. “This has become his second home.”

Swartz said he’s watched several stores and restaurants close around him and he’s hopeful the relief money comes quickly.

“This is my wife’s dream, so we’re not going to give up,” he said. “But we’re hopeful that we are finally turning a page when it comes to the pandemic.”