Mayor Hancock announces ‘initial’ $4 million fund for 250 Denver small businesses hurt by the coronavirus outbreak

Business owners can receive up to $7,500. Artists stand to get some help, too.

Atelier on 17th Avenue in City Park West, March 17, 2020. (Emily Ownes)

Atelier on 17th Avenue in City Park West, March 17, 2020. (Emily Ownes)

staff photos

The city government is making $4 million available for Denver businesses dealing with the economic vacuum caused by the new coronavirus outbreak, Mayor Michael Hancock announced Thursday.

Earlier this week, Hancock shut down bars and restricted restaurants to pick-up and delivery for at least eight weeks.

Business owners can apply to receive up to $7,500 in cash, but only the city’s “most vulnerable” small businesses will qualify, said Eric Hiraga, director of Denver’s economic development department. The program is designed to assist businesses that have closed temporarily, laid off staff, or are having trouble paying rent and utilities.

The $4 million fund is just an initial sum, Hiraga said, and he expects about 250 businesses to benefit. Hancock expects more donations from the private sector. Other local, state and federal programs will help absorb the blow businesses face, too, the mayor said.

Business owners can apply for the emergency grants on the city’s website. Denver also provides micro-loans to business owners in lower-income neighborhoods of between $5,000 and $50,000. Federal support from the Small Business Administration is also now available.

“We’re going to get through to the other side of this, and the city is committing to identifying, developing and implementing local resources, whether they’re financial or wraparound services to support Denver business owners and their employees who have been affected,” Hancock said.

Denver artists can also apply for $1,000.

They’ll get the cash if their “incomes are being adversely affected due to the cancellation of events, classes, performances, and other creative work,” Hancock said. But the money comes from the Imagine 2020 arts fund, which only holds $130,000, according to the city’s Arts & Venues website.

In a statement, president of the SEIU Local 105 union Ron Ruggiero said he was “encouraged” by the mayor’s commitment. But he also demanded Hancock and Denver International Airport CEO Kim Day take more steps to ensure airport workers’ physical and economic safety.

Ruggiero called for wage replacement for employees if companies at the airport reduce hours or pay, as well as more paid sick leave, better health insurance, and higher pay for servers who rely on tips while the airport sees fewer customers.

“As leaders in our community, they carry a great responsibility to ensure everyone in our community is safe and has the resources to economically survive,” Ruggiero stated. “I look forward to seeing them step up their commitment to include airport workers and their families.”

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