Palm Desert adds $1 million to its business assistance program to help its restaurants
Another $1 million from the Palm Desert Reserve Fund will be used to help restaurants affected by the current COVID-19 shutdown with interest-free loans that can be forgiven if certain criteria are met.
Of these funds, $200,000 will be used to reimburse restaurants providing free healthy meals to seniors and residents of affordable housing in the city, with the potential to serve 7,400 meals.
The funds were unanimously approved Thursday for the city’s ongoing “Unite Palm Desert” program which has so far provided more than $2 million in relief to businesses and residents who have been financially impacted by the pandemic through various shutdowns since March.
The money comes from the city’s economic development reserve fund.
Palm Desert restaurants affected by the December 7 stay-at-home order still in effect are eligible. Nominations will be available on the city’s website, www.cityofpalmdesert.org, beginning Jan. 20.
How the funds will be distributed:
- $800,000 is allocated for interest-free forgivable loans of $5,000 to $10,000.
- $200,000 is allocated to reimburse restaurants for meals prepared and delivered to eligible residents such as seniors and those living in affordable housing in the city; up to $27 per meal, including a $5 delivery charge. The potential is 7,400 meals to serve.
To be eligible, restaurants:
- Must comply with the state’s regional stay-at-home order issued on December 7 and as it may be amended or extended.
- Must remain open for take-out service – or operate as current/future regional COVID-19 health orders permit.
- Must remain in business through May 31, 2021 to qualify for loan forgiveness.
- Must comply with all state, county and city laws and ordinances.
“There is also an opportunity here for us to work with our restaurants to provide scheduled COVID-safe meals to our police and firefighters,” Economic Development Director Martin Alvarez said thank you.
Councilor Karina Quintanilla suggested looking at a way to provide meals for students as well, perhaps in a drive-thru.
“We know that many students who supplement their academic endeavors with sometimes part-time jobs have been hit very hard during the pandemic and I think…we certainly could be in a position to serve our students,” Quintanilla said.
The “restaurant stimulus package” approved Thursday is expected to help about 80 businesses, Alvarez said.
The extra funds for Unite Palm Desert came at the request of the council, saying in December they wanted to be able to do more for small businesses, especially restaurants, affected by the current stay-at-home order.
The order reduced restaurants to take-out and delivery services only and closed service-related businesses such as hair and nail salons, hair salons, gyms, except for health programs. outdoors and more.
At a special meeting on December 22, the board approved the reallocation of $500,000 to the Unite Palm Desert program that had been earmarked for a hospitality incentive program, to be used for interest-free loans of $5,000 $ for up to 100 qualifying businesses.
With that approval, the council asked staff to come back with a plan that pumps more money into the program to help businesses, restaurants in particular.
Staff worked with the city council’s Economic Development Subcommittee (EDC) to formulate and revise guidelines for the Restaurant Economic Assistance Program, focused on assisting restaurants that Alvarez said have been particularly hard hit.
The city received 139 applications — 82 service-related businesses such as salons and 57 restaurants — for the $500,000 council approved last month, Alvarez said.
Applications from all 57 restaurants can be moved into the approved program on Thursday, Alvarez said.
“Doing this will perhaps open up additional loans … for service-related businesses,” he said.
The city created Unite Palm Desert in May, setting up a tiered program to help businesses and residents with interest-free loans and rent and mortgage assistance during the pandemic.
To date, the program has provided over $1 million in interest-free loans ranging from $1,500 to $25,000 to 156 businesses in Palm Desert.
Additionally, about $61,000 has been awarded to residents in need of rent or mortgage assistance with an additional $198,000 in applications currently being reviewed, said city spokesman David Hermann.
Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the cities of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherryBarkas