As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its seventh month, it’s no secret that all sorts of businesses are struggling. But while many of those struggles are easy to see in the loss of a favorite restaurant …
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As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its seventh month, it’s no secret that all sorts of businesses are struggling.
But while many of those struggles are easy to see in the loss of a favorite restaurant or an increasing preponderance of vacant spaces around town, some Jeffco residents say the worry the struggles faced by their businesses are going both unseen and unacknowledged by the cities they call home, particularly when it comes to the disbursement of grants and other aid funds to businesses looking for help to stay afloat.
In the last few weeks, the cities of Arvada, Golden, Wheat Ridge and Lakewood have all launched new rounds of their programs that provide community businesses the opportunity to apply for grants that will cover losses of revenue resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, only Lakewood has allowed home-based businesses to apply for the grants (provided they had revenues of at least $75,000 in 2019), while Arvada and Golden have specifically excluded them.
That’s a source of frustration for Arvada resident Samantha Schultz, who owns a travel agency called Plan Your Perfect Vacation that she runs out of her home.
Just prior to the pandemic, Plan Your Perfect Vacation was operating at its peak with Schultz saying she was on track to do about a million dollars in business in 2020. However, the pandemic has meant that all of that business has pretty much disappeared in a continuing bevy of trip cancellations and postponements that Schultz said is particularly hard on travel agents because they don’t get paid their commission until the trip actually occurs.
Given that she has gone several months without income and will likely continue to largely do so until the travel agency recovers (which is something she does not expect to happen until midway next year), Schultz said she thinks Arvada should consider making the grants available to her and other businesses that are struggling for one reason or another.
“I think the city is very supportive of small business but I also feel like the majority of the help is going toward certain industries when we need a more holistic look at what other business types need that support and aren’t getting the same amount of attention,” said Schultz. “I think we all are getting attention but maybe not in the same way.”
Ryan Stachelski, the community and economic director for the city of Arvada, said the city had strongly considered allowing home-based businesses to apply for the grants but ultimately decided not to for me two main reasons.
First, the city determined that storefront businesses tend to employ more workers than home-based businesses.
“That’s not always the case but we felt that the employment of more people was important when it comes to using these limited resources,” he said.
The second reason is that the city had heard that Jefferson County is in the process of launching a grant program that would be open to home-based businesses. The details of that program have not been announced but Jeffco Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper confirmed that the county is in the process of developing such a program.
Stachelski said the city is also hoping Adams County will launch a similar program.
“Honestly, we just didn’t want to duplicate the efforts,” said Stachelski. “We want the limited funding that we have through CARES Act funding to go as a far as possible and not create a competition amongst ourselves and the county for businesses.”
But while some home-based businesses are struggling, new ones are being launched with strategies that are intended to provide new services people want during the pandemic.
That’s the case for Feeding Francis, a new salt and seasoning company that Golden resident Katie McLaughlin started out her home in May.
But while demand for her products has been high, Katie and her husband, Francis, have still found themselves contending with challenges ranging from a shortage of containers to hold their product as a result of container companies switching to make containers for cleaning and sanitizing products to the inability to offer samples at farmer’s markets.
While Francis said those challenges have hurt the business and its sales, he remains optimistic about the future.
“We’re going to keep trucking along,” said Francis. “What I’ve told people is COVID-19 stops certain people but other people and companies have to adapt and keep moving on. And we’ve adapted by putting our products in bags instead of containers.”
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