City OKs Aid for Small Businesses, Renters Hurt by Pandemic

The Burbank City Council approved more than $850,000 in relief money for small businesses and low-income renters impacted by the coronavirus, acknowledging that the funds alone would not be enough to help everyone in need.
The council unanimously authorized the spending during its virtual meeting Tuesday, allocating nearly $440,000 for rental assistance and more than $414,104 to provide forgivable loans for small businesses. The programs are largely funded by Burbank’s portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, with unused federal Community Development Block Grant and county Measure H funds also contributing to the initiatives.
The small business assistance program launched with the money will help “microenterprise” entities, such as gig workers, contractors and those who are self-employed, by providing a forgivable loan of up to $5,000. Businesses with between two and 50 employees can receive up to $10,000 in forgivable loans, though they must have at least one low-income employee to be eligible.
The program aims to assist between 30 and 60 businesses, according to Marcos Gonzalez, the city’s housing development manager. When originally proposed, the aid would also have been available to businesses that applied for federal Small Business Administration loans.
However, the council decided to amend the program so that it would cover what was not provided by those loans up to $5,000 or $10,000, as some business owners have reported receiving only a fraction of what they applied for.
The program will likely be in place in early June, according to Gonzalez.
The second initiative approved on Tuesday, a rental assistance program, will give low-income renters who have been impacted by COVID-19 $800 a month for up to three months. The fund, which will be operated by Burbank nonprofit Family Promise of the Verdugos, will give money directly to landlords, though residents who are in a subsidized or vouchered living unit are not eligible for aid.
Simone McFarland, assistant community development director for the city, said during the meeting that the rental assistance program would help residents keep up with rent payments and allow landlords to retain a source of income. She also said that 20% of renters across the nation are not able to pay rent or are paying only part of it – a statistic she believes is mirrored in Burbank at nearly 3,500 people.
“It’s across the board,” she said. “We get emails that say ‘I’ve been a Burbank resident for 25 years, I’ve been paying my rent on time, I made $70,000, $80,000 a year prior to COVID, and now I’m a single parent with two kids at home and I don’t have a job.’ We’re hearing those types of things.”
Candidates for the rental assistance program could be screened as early as June, said Albert Hernandez, director of Family Promise of the Verdugos.
The fund, which also pays for administrative costs, was originally proposed at $1,000 a month to aid roughly 130 renters. But council members decided to decrease the program to $800 a month so more residents could be included.
The council also approved a $1 million project to purchase and rehabilitate a building owned by the Salvation Army on 300 E. Angeleno Ave. The building will serve as a new facility for the Boys & Girls Club.

MEMORIAL DAY EVENT GOES VIRTUAL
Council members also announced that the city’s traditional Memorial Day service would be canceled due to the coronavirus. However, a virtual tribute will be aired on the Burbank Channel and streamed on YouTube on Monday at 11 a.m. Congressman Adam Schiff and Mickey DePalo, 2017 veteran of the year for California’s 43rd Assembly District, will make appearances.

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