NEWPORT — The Newport City Council held a public hearing during a livestreamed meeting on Monday, May 18, before approving a COVID-19 Related Small Business Assistance Grant Program.
The council voted unanimously to approve Resolution 3885 and will award grants up to $10,000 to eligible businesses. Applications are available on the city’s website — newportoregon.gov — and must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Friday, May 29, for consideration.
“Even though the resources seem like a lot, they are not going to go nearly as far as we want them to go. There are going to be a lot of applications,” City Manager Spencer Nebel said. “Somewhere under 800 is what I would expect,” he responded when asked how many applications he anticipates the city receiving.
“By the time we get through this, hopefully we will have provided some very important lifesaving funds to a number of businesses in our community. Unfortunately, we aren’t going to be able to help everybody,” Nebel said.
“The Newport City Council established parameters for the submittal, review and approval of grant applications to ensure that available funds are dispersed in an equitable manner,” according to a city press release issued on Tuesday. “(There is a) point system to prioritize the distribution of grants, with those with the highest points being awarded first. The city may prorate amounts awarded to expand the number of qualified businesses receiving grants.”
Of the $1 million in urban renewal funds allocated for the program, $100,000 will be placed in a State of Oregon COVID-19 Emergency Business Assistance Matching Fund. Business Oregon will match $100,000 in funds for Yachats, Newport, Lincoln City and Lincoln County to be distributed to businesses as one-time grants of $2,500 to $25,000. Community LendingWorks will administer the application process on behalf of the Lincoln County collaborative partnership.
Businesses can apply for one or both programs, said Nebel, noting the requirements differ.
Mayor Dean Sawyer and Councilor Dietmar Goebel will represent the city council on a newly formed committee, which will score the applicants and present recommendations to the city manager.
Only three area residents provided input for the public hearing. Mike Goff emailed Mayor Dean Sawyer, urging the city to reconsider excluding businesses with more than 30 employees.
April Lee also emailed Sawyer, urging the city to include vacation rentals. Lee claimed she has lost nearly $12,000 during the COVID-19-related restrictions on lodging. “My vacation rental is as much a small business in Newport as any is. I have housekeepers and yard crews employed here who have suffered greatly. I pay the same business license fee, a vacation rental fee and a parking fee,” she wrote.
Dee Nebert, owner/innkeeper of Tyee Lodge Oceanfront B&B, emailed input on the program objecting to the preference given to restaurants.
“Our main objective was to help commercial storefront businesses survive the COVID-19 economic impacts,” Nebel detailed in his report to the city council.
Among other amendments to the draft, which added clarification, the city council voted to include licensed bed and breakfasts and inns, a total of three of them, with hotels and motels eligible for the city’s grant program, reasoning they are exclusively used as businesses.
“The main objective of this grant program is to help commercial storefront businesses located in the Newport urban growth boundary to return to full operation,” Nebel noted.
There was also a question by Councilor CM Hall regarding businesses with delinquent taxes and fees being ineligible.
“We put some thought into that one,” responded Community Development Director Derrick Tokos. “If you had either property taxes or room taxes that were due before April 1 of 2020, that would have been situations that were pre-COVID disaster.”
It is anticipated that awards for the city’s program might be made as early as June 8, Tokos said in his report to council.