North Stonington seeks to aid small businesses with ARPA grants | North Stonington

NORTH STONINGTON — Four small businesses in the community have received grants from the town through American Rescue Plan Act funding that officials hope will provide an injection of cash to offset losses and pandemic-related costs.

Economic Development Commission Coordinator Ivanna Hugo said the town has awarded $37,000 as part of the first round of North Stonington EDC COVID-19 Small Business Assistance Program grants. The new program, which was approved by town officials earlier this year, allocates $100,000 in ARPA funds to aid various local businesses with expenses incurred as a result of the pandemic or other related economic factors.

The first recipients of the grant include Farmtrue LLC, which was given $7,000, and North Stonington Medical Walk-In, Dr. Stefana Percher and The Tin Peddler, which were each awarded maximum grants of $10,000.

“The rising costs of goods and growing utility expenses have made it incredibly difficult to sustain reasonable prices for our customers and still make a profit,” said Nicole Jenkins, one of the co-owners of the Tin Peddler. “This gives us a true hope for the future, and that we will be able to make it through until costs come down.”

For the town of North Stonington, the grant program provides a variety of benefits for both residents and businesses. First Selectman Robert Carlson said in a phone conversation Monday that the primary purpose of the program is to offer assistance to businesses, ensuring they are able to sustain operations in town.

Jenkins said that for businesses like the Tin Peddler, the boost in capital is a crucial financial tool to help supplement rising product costs, high energy prices, supply chain issues and other factors that have put stress on local businesses. It is no different in the medical industry, with the walk-in clinic and Dr. Percher’s office each facing challenges including maintaining staffing levels and adjusting to maintain proper safety protocols, according to applications.

A strong summer season and start to fall, which helped bring a number of tourists and travelers to the Route 2 corridor, sparked additional post-pandemic business, Jenkins said, but with winter coming and sales likely to slow again, the money will go a long way in carrying them into next year, she said.

“This is going to be a big help for us, and it is going to help assure we can keep our doors open,” she said.

Hugo and Carlson said that keeping the doors open is an important part of the program. Each said in separate phone interviews that the money is designed to do just that, which in turn supplies the town with taxable assets and provides local jobs.

The success of the businesses are crucial in growing the grand list, which aids in reducing the tax burden to both individuals and businesses.

“These businesses and the jobs they provide are an important part of our community. We need to make sure we continue to support them and grow on what we already have,” Carlson said.

Hugo said Wednesday that the first round of funding is only the first step and that she would work with members of the Economic Development Commission until the remaining $63,000 in designated funding is allocated to local businesses.

The EDC is scheduled to meet next week to review two additional applications — the most a business can receive is $10,000 — and Hugo said the town has received four additional applications already but is awaiting additional documentation that must be supplied before they can be reviewed.

In order for a business to be eligible, it must be located in North Stonington, employ no more than 50 employees, be in good standing with permits, on the grand list and current on all taxes, and must remain in business for no less than three months after receiving any grant funding.

Although early applications included some significant awards, officials said they expect most grants to be between $2,000 and $3,000 based on needs.

To prove need, the grant application states that a business must be able to show decreased revenue or gross receipts; the ability to weather financial hardship; challenges covering payroll, rent or mortgage and other operating costs; prove existence or use of loans or grants to mitigate financial hardship, such as by supporting payroll and benefits, costs to retain employees, and mortgage, rent, utility, and other operating costs; or providing technical assistance, counseling, or other services to support business planning.

“We want to make sure we are helping the businesses that need it the most,” Hugo said.

For more information or to begin the application process, visit the town’s EDC website at https://www.northstoningtonct.gov/economic-development-commission.

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