The first distributions from the City of Pueblo COVID-19 Emergency Loan and Grant Fund have now been awarded.
Mayor Nick Gradisar says as of Wednesday, May 6, the first round of applications for the fund were approved and almost $1.2 million dollars in loans and grants have been awarded to Pueblo small businesses.
The Pueblo City Council unanimously approved the $5 million COVID—19 Emergency Loan and Grant Fund at its April 13th regular meeting. The request for applications forms became available online on April 17.
Shelly Dunham, Grant and Resource Development Director for the City of Pueblo, says 527 requests for applications were received. Of that number, 491 applications, eliminating duplicates and businesses outside the city, were sent out. As of May 6, 227 applications have been returned.
“What has stood out most to me working on this program is the goodness of the people of Pueblo. Small businesses are really hurting. And yet application after application, people aren’t asking for the maximum grant allowed. They’re asking for only what they absolutely need, making sure there is enough to help as many local small businesses as possible. That says a lot about our community."
A three-person panel, made up of Mark Dunsmoor, Sherri Baca, and Zach Swearingen, administers the program through Mayor Gradisar’s office. As of Wednesday, the panel forwarded 81 applications to the Mayor with recommendations for funding. The Mayor has approved 69 applications to date.
“We have had an overwhelming response to this program, and I would like to thank the City Council and our PEDCO partners for making this program available to our local businesses,” says Mayor Gradisar. “Small business is the lifeblood of our community and this pandemic has damaged them severely in Pueblo. This program will not make all of our small businesses whole but if it can help them survive and prepare them to phase back up as soon as it is safe to do so, it will be successful. I want to express my gratitude to Mark Dunsmoor, Sherri Baca and Zach Swearingen for the countless hours that have and will spend in reviewing the applications and making recommendations to the mayor’s office. “
The Solar Roast Coffee, Pizza Ranch, and Nacho’s restaurants are among the first recipients of the emergency fund.
“We are immensely proud and privileged to be part of the Pueblo community and are thrilled to be able to use this money to reinvest into our store and support our local vendors. Stop by when we reopen and drink more coffee!”, says Michael Hartkop, of Solar Roast Coffee.
Glen Grady of Pizza Ranch says the award came at a critical time.
“This will make a big difference in our plans to reopen and better serve our guests and community,” says Grady.
Cindy and Martin Ayala of Nacho’s Restaurant thanked everyone who had made the emergency fund possible.
“We’d like to thank the City of Pueblo, the citizens of Pueblo, the Mayor, and PEDCO for making this happen. The support is definitely going to help us in the upcoming months during these unprecedented times."
The three-member panel which reviewed the applications has an extensive background in financial, economic, non-profit, budgetary, and governmental sectors. Baca, Assistant Director of the Pueblo City-Council Library District and a Certified Public Accountant, credits that background in reviewing the applications.
“It has been a pleasure to support the efforts of the City of Pueblo to extend critical support to local businesses suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 public health crisis,” Baca says. “The need is great and the fact that the Mayor, City Council and PEDCO have jumped into action to provide support is certainly impressive.”
Mark Dunsmoor, Senior Vice President at Legacy Bank, also serves on the panel.
“In reviewing all of the applications for funding, it’s become even more apparent how significant of an impact the COVID 19 virus and the subsequent restrictions have had on our local economy. I’m grateful the City is providing access to these emergency funds to help soften the blow to our local businesses.”
The third member of the volunteer panel is local businessman Zach Swearingen. He echoes Baca and Dunsmoor in applauding the community, PEDCO, the City Council, and Mayor Gradisar in getting the relief program off the ground.
“In going through the applications,” he says. “It’s sad to see how badly this disease has impacted the business owners. Some of them have lost almost all their savings. I hope the loans and grants will keep them afloat and help them recover. And I hope people will remember to shop locally and help our small businesses when this is over.”
The COVID-19 Emergency Loan and Grant Fund recipients must file their March sales taxes before receiving their awards.