DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) - Decatur leaders voted to change language in a Small Business Assistance Program in a way that gives preference to businesses that have followed COVID-19 guidelines.
Language in an agreement between Decatur and the Community Investment Corporation of Decatur to establish a Community Development Block Grant fund had sought to make businesses that had been cited for COVID-19 ordinance violations ineligible for funding. This was presented to the Decatur City Council on Dec. 7 and was tabled after some council members were concerned this language could be too harsh given the circumstances of the pandemic.
According to the proposed agreement between the city and CICD, the fund would include a total of $272,477 to be distributed to businesses struggling during the pandemic.
According to the Dec. 14 meeting packet, Alternative No. 2, which was unanimously approved in a 7-0 vote, creates replacement language allowing assistance application reviewers to give preference to those who have not been cited for ordnance violations "using scoring criteria developed later by the City and the CICD."
Legal counsel had recommended the following language for Alternative No. 2:
“Preference for providing assistance through this Program will be given to those businesses who have not been found to be in violation of local ordinances within the previous twelve (12) months.”
City officials said the city and CIDC will develop a points-based system for scoring grant applications and figuring out eligibility "using numerous factors."
"Where similar levels of need exist but funds are limited, then preference would be given to the establishments that have received no local ordinance fines or citations, including those related to COVID enforcement," a city document said.
Decatur leaders considered three other alternatives, including one completely removing the language not allowing businesses who committed violations to receive funding, another creating new language allowing the city to withhold funds for ordinance violations other than COVID-19 violations, and finally an option keeping the language the same as it was.
Leaders explained in the Dec. 14 document why they had language potentially not allowing businesses who committed COVID-19 violations to receive funding.
"City staff did not insert the highlighted language into the proposed agreement to be punitive," officials said. "Rather, it was inserted in the interests of consistency. Many other programs that fund assistance, rehabilitation and other services to citizens, including those funded by HUD, require that recipients not have delinquent taxes, water/sewer bills and other obligations owed to the City in order to be eligible to receive program benefits. If it is the City Council’s desire to be less rigid as regards eligibility for special funding due to COVID circumstances, but still be moderately consistent with past practice, then it is recommended that either Alternative #2 or Alternative #3 be adopted."