As with the rest of the nation, Tuscaloosa has experienced an unprecedented past six months in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Restart Tuscaloosa, an Elevate Tuscaloosa initiative, was created to help Tuscaloosa weather the storm by strategically investing in small businesses, neighborhoods, experiences, and public safety.
One of the key components of Restart Tuscaloosa was a $1 million investment into the Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Relief Fund. The purpose of this investment was to quickly infuse capital into vulnerable small businesses by assisting with essential fixed costs such as rent, utilities, and insurance.
“No other sector has been more hard-hit by the COVID-19 crisis than our small businesses in Tuscaloosa,” Mayor Walt Maddox explains. “Small business owners have made great sacrifices so that our community can remain safe, and it was my belief that the community should come together in support of these businesses.
The Elevate funding for the Small Business Relief Fund was approved by the Tuscaloosa City Council on May 12, and applications opened on the Chamber’s website two weeks later. To qualify for funding, businesses had to demonstrate financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, have 50 or fewer employees, be in good standing with state and local government, and be located within the Tuscaloosa City limits.
By August 14, the City and the Chamber had successfully distributed $1 million to 230 local businesses.
“One of the most critical aspects of this initiative was the immediacy of the funding,” Mayor Maddox says. “I’m proud of the speed at which we were able to get Restart Tuscaloosa into motion, and distribute these much-needed funds to our business owners.”
Bars and restaurants; retail shops; barber shops and salons; and gyms and spas received the largest portion of the funding. City Council district 4, which encompasses the University of Alabama, the Strip, and portions of downtown, had the most businesses receive awards, but businesses in every district received funding.
“We at the Chamber are thrilled to have been able to assist so many small businesses during this difficult time,” Barkley Garrett, Vice President for Economic Development for the Chamber says.
“Thank you so much for help and support to small businesses, like myself,” said Myca Bell-Mack of Myca Mack Beauty. “It makes such a huge difference to us all. We will forever be indebted to you all for your generosity during such uncertain times.”