Through its designated COVID-19 Recovery Small Business Funding, the City of Pittsfield has awarded $464,157 to just over 60 small businesses in the city, resulting in the creation, and or, retention of an estimated 286 jobs.

The small business fund is part of the City of Pittsfield’ comprehensive and robust COVID-19 Economic Recovery Program established by Mayor Linda Tyer in April. The small business recovery grants are funded by two sources: $350,000 from the CARES Act, which is awarded through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and $200,000 from the city’s Small Business Fund.

“Like many communities across the country, the pandemic has had a tremendous impact on small businesses in Pittsfield. With this funding, our local businesses will be able to meet some of their critical financial needs brought on by this global health crisis,” said Mayor Tyer. “I am pleased to know that these awards will help to support the vitality and longevity of our city’s small businesses which are integral to Pittsfield’s success.”

Sixty-two applications were submitted for funding assistance from the city’s COVID-19 Recovery Fund. Businesses that received funding include those from the following industries: hospitality, restaurants, spas and salons, recreational and fitness, builders, markets, and retail, as well as, entertainment. Sixty-seven percent of the businesses funded are owned by women and minorities.

Grant awards range from $3,500 to $10,000. Award selections were guided by analyses done by the city’s Department of Community Development and recommendations from the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation (PERC) Board of Directors.

Jay Anderson, president of PERC, cited the factors that contributed to the grant award process.

“PERC was pleased to assist the City with the evaluation of applications. Board and Finance Committee members reviewed and quantitatively rated each application taking into consideration the financial condition of each business prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, their plans for the future, as well as the number of jobs to be retained, rehired or created,” Anderson said.

Special consideration was given to low-and moderate-income business owners, as well as minority and women-owned businesses. The level of need, requested funding amount, and the proposed uses, such as payroll, rent utilities, inventory and COVID-19 safety supplies for reopening was also assessed, he noted.

Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer highlighted her team’s work.

“The department staff are to be commended for the exemplary work done in developing the application process, working with each applicant, analyzing the large volume of applications, and now working with each business to disburse the awarded funds,” Ruffer noted.

For the grant recipients, the financial awards are both beneficial and timely.

Here are a few of their stories:

For Lindsey Tuller and Pliny Hunt, owners of the Berkshire General Store, 75 North St., a deli, convenience store, and gift shop all-in-one, they noted that their business experienced significant financial loss due during the temporary closure. The grant will help to fund the business’ essential expenses such as rent, utilities, and payroll.

Andrea Blessing, owner of Jodi’s Seasonal, a floral shop at 717 ½ Crane Ave., said the pandemic greatly reduced walk-in foot traffic and orders for in-person gatherings. That said, Blessing was committed to remaining open. The funds will help her to pay rent, utilities, payroll, and insurance. “I am very appreciative and thankful for this grant,” said Blessing.

Since 2014, Love’s Beauty Studio, 5 Cheshire Road, has provided professional hair care and salon services, facials, manicures, pedicures and massages. Owner LaToya Gillyard said her business experienced back-to-back calamities: the first being a flood this past January that affected businesses in the Allendale underground, and then the pandemic. “I lost everything: my employees, my inventory, and my customers,” said Gillyard, who specializes in multi-textured hair of clients from various ethnicities, as well as those with oncology and immune disorders. “The Covid-19 Small Business Grant will allow me to get my business back and running. The funding will be used for payroll and inventory.”

When the pandemic caused Stephan “Lefty” Lanphear’s business, Lefty’s Tattoo Studio, 304 Tyler St., to close in March, Lanphear forged ahead as best he could. For five months, he continued to pay bills with no income. For Lanphear, who purchased and restored the building in which the studio is located, said the grant will allow his business to adjust to the necessary standards. “The future of tattoo studios will look different. This grant will help me reinvent my business and develop an environment that is safe for my employees, and my customers,” Lanphear said. “I will be able to create a space where my business can continue to prosper.”

Please note the City of Pittsfield is still accepting applications as some funding remains available. These applications will be considered on a rolling, case-by-case basis. Information and application forms can be accessed here.

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