CEDAR FALLS — A state grant program is providing urgent relief to Cedar Valley small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 health emergency.
Some 50 Black Hawk County restaurants, bars, salons and small retailers received a combined $935,511 in grants last week from the small business relief program established at the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
The grants were part of a statewide $24 million pool of funding established by Gov. Kim Reynolds to help small businesses forced to close or limit operations starting last month to prevent spreading coronavirus.
“This program was designed to be short-term, stopgap funding until our federal resources became identified or available,” IEDA Director Debi Durham said.
The initial pool was boosted from the original $4 million April 8 after the agency received nearly 14,000 applications from small businesses seeking $148 million in aid.
Durham said the applications were “triaged” to ensure businesses suffering the greatest losses were helped first. The grants, ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 each, were for businesses with two to 25 employees.
In Black Hawk County, the assistance went to about 25 bars and restaurants, eight salons and barber shops, and 17 other businesses impacted by the statewide restrictions.
Octopus and Mohair Pear on College Hill in Cedar Falls were among those getting help. The bar and live music venue has been shut down since March 16 and the store closed soon after.
“I don’t think I’ve been unemployed since I was 16,” said Dave Deibler, who operates the businesses with his wife, Barb. “I’ve been self-employed since I was 23. It just doesn’t seem real.”
Deibler said he didn’t expect to actually receive one of the grants given the size of the funding pool, but said the money will go a long way to keeping the businesses alive while they wait for a safe time to reopen.
“That money really does make a difference,” he said. “It’s not just chump change.
“It’s easy to be cynical about the government. I’m of the political persuasion that thinks this is exactly what the government should be doing in times like this.
“I do want to stimulate the economy and be a responsible citizen and use that money as it’s intended,” he added. “I think how it’s intended now is to keep me in business.”
Deibler said he’s continuing to look at some of the federal programs being set up to help businesses survive and recover from the pandemic. But he also noted his banker at Lincoln Savings Bank reached out early and has been working well with him on ways to weather the storm.
Grow Cedar Valley, a local economic development organization, has been hearing from many small business owners about their needs during the current emergency.
“I think there’s a lot more out there than we all think about,” said Lisa Skubal, vice president of economic development. “It’s not just bars and restaurants.”
Skubal said Grow Cedar Valley is hoping the state shares more information about how many Cedar Valley businesses actually applied for the small business relief grants.
“I’m sure with the existing businesses that did get funded, every little bit helps until they can figure out whether they qualify through the CARES Act or not,” she said. “We want to know the number of businesses that applied so we know what the need was.
“We know that based on statewide numbers that the need was much greater than what was available,” Skubal added. “So we know that everyone didn’t get funded.”
Elsewhere in Northeast Iowa, eight businesses in Buchanan County received some $128,645 in grants from the program, including Del Rio Mexican Restaurant and First Street Deli in Independence.
Bremer County also saw eight businesses receive assistance, including the The Dirty Dog American Bar and Grill, El Sol Mexican Restaurant, and Sasquatch Jack’s Hideaway Barroom and Grill in Waverly.
A full list of the grants awarded statewide can be found on the Courier’s and IEDA’s websites.
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