City officials on Friday got a jump on giving away more than $300,000 designated for struggling businesses.

The Revolving Loan Fund committee — the group charged with taking applications for a new state-funded, mini-grant program — met at City Hall, 201 Vigo St., and considered several applications, eventually voting to give away more than $60,000 to nearly 20 local businesses as part of the first round of awards.

And they’re now accepting applications for more.

“I know one community that has already done six rounds,” Matt Sward with the Loogootee-based Southern Indiana Development Commission told committee members. “So this will be an ongoing process.”

Vincennes in May received a $250,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs' now revamped Community Development Block Grant Program.

The city months ago, just as the COVID-19 shutdown began, re-designated its own Revolving Loan Fund to offer micro-loans to struggling businesses. That program, however, was suspended when the city secured the OCRA dollars — that way it could give the money away rather than loan it.

Then the city council took $106,000 from the RLF and added it to the pot.

Businesses with up to five employees can get $2,000, between 6-10 employees $4,000, 11-15 employees $6,000, 16-20 employees $8,000 and 21 and more employees $10,000.

Most businesses awarded money Friday got between $2,000 and $4,000 while larger businesses, specifically local restaurants such as La Fiesta and Procopio’s Pizza and Pasta, got the full $10,000.

There is some specific criteria the city must meet, however, in terms of handing out the money.

Just over half of all applicants must have employees that meet federal low-to-moderate income guidelines.

And while there was some questions surrounding this rule early on, Sward said some of those details are taking shape.

The state, he said, will look at the city’s applications collectively — not individually — and as long as 51% of employees across all of the businesses awarded money meet those income guidelines, the city should be in compliance.

Currently, with Friday’s list of awarded applicants, about 70% of employees collectively met those guidelines.

“I know it’s confusing,” Sward said. “It’s all new. We’ve never done this before.

“So we’re just doing what they ask and seeing what the results look like.”

RLF committee members had concerns, however, about whether they would be able to get rid of all the money — or how long it would take to do it.

Sward said the committee could always change the payment tiers, thereby giving businesses more money. Those changes, too, could be made retroactive to ensure the city’s first applicants are treated fairly.

Or they can leave the tiers the same and hold as many rounds necessary to hand all of it out.

“It just all depends on how you want to handle this,” Sward said. “The only goal here is to get the money out.

“There is no right or wrong way to do this,” he said.

County officials, too, received $250,000 from this same state pot of money. The commissioners are taking applications via the county’s website, www.knoxcounty.in.gov, through June 26.

The city’s application is now back online at www.vincennes.org.
Copyright ©2020 Vincennes Sun Commercial