KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Beginning Monday, small businesses within Kansas City, Missouri’s Center City Economic Development special taxing district are eligible to apply for grants of up to $10,000.
The district covers much of the city’s East Side, from 9th Street to Gregory Boulevard between The Paseo and Indiana Avenue.
The Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) is administering the grant program on behalf of the city and the taxing district. LISC’s executive director in Kansas City, Geoff Jolley, said there is $500,000 in the program. He hopes to distribute about 90 grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000.
Businesses can use the money to pay for day-to-day operations such as rent, utilities and payroll. Other expenses can be approved on a case-by-case basis.
Jolley said oftentimes Black-owned businesses don’t have the same access to capital at the same rates as white business owners. He said he hopes this program, with a focus on businesses in a predominantly African American part of town, gives Black business owners a boost.
“We’re doing what we can to really provide those businesses an opportunity to compete with mainstream businesses who would have easier access to capital, banks and customers,” Jolley said.
Jason Pratt, a Black man who owns a car stereo business in the district named Parkway Audio, said he struggled to get a Payroll Protection Program loan in the spring. An analysis showed most PPP loans in Kansas City went to white business owners.
“Unless you have someone that knows how to navigate the system, it’s almost impossible to try to get those types of loans,” he said.
So Pratt was happy to hear about the new Center City Economic Development Small Business Stabilization Fund. He said business has dipped because people aren’t prioritizing their car stereo during the pandemic, plus the pandemic made it harder to get parts from overseas.
Pratt explained his business serves a customer base in the neighborhoods around his store and if he were to go out of business, those customers wouldn’t be able to access similar services.
“A lot of people don’t have the means to get further down south or up north to get the type of service I provide. So keeping my doors open is imperative,” Pratt said.
Across Swope Parkway, Deborah Mann is in a catch 22. She co-founded Emmanuel Family and Child Development Center 35 years ago. She only makes money when children are in the classroom, but because of COVID-19 protocols, she has to limit how many children she accepts. All the while, bills keep coming.
“You have this brand new building, you want to take on new children, you want to get to your capacity, but then there’s COVID, then there’s 6 feet distance, and trying to separate children, and trying not to bring too many children into the center because children can be asymptomatic, and you fill up a center and have too many children and it could shut us down,” Mann said.
She did receive a PPP loan, but that money is already accounted for.
“I consider early childhood as an essential service,” Mann said. “If you don’t have child care, you can’t go to work. So it’s really important we are able to stay open and provide those safe environments for children.”
To qualify for a grant, businesses must make less than $750,000 in annual revenue and employ fewer than 20 people.
Applications are due by 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19. The application is available on LISC’s website.
LISC anticipates choosing grant recipients by mid-December and distributing funds by the beginning of 2021.
The grant program is funded through a sales tax collected on items sold within the Center City Economic Development special taxing district.
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