New Orleans leaders encouraging business owners to apply for federal aid

Mayor on stimulus money

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - George Demmas hosted Generations Hall’s first event in over a year, a small wedding.

“It was kind of nice to get back into it,” Demmas said. “It’s been trickling in. The phone’s been ringing a little bit.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Demmas does not expect to see large crowds in his event space for at least another year. But he says small events, like weddings, are giving him hope for the future as he tries to hold on.

“We got the second round of PPP money about a month ago, which is great. That’s going to bridge us to a transition the next few months,” said Demmas. “The other grant we are hoping and praying on is the shuttered venue operators grant.”

The Shuttered Venue Operators grant includes over $16 Billion in grants for eligible venues affected by COVID-19 through the Small Business Administration’s Office of Disaster Assistance.

“If we get that, that’s, that will really help us big time in transition,” Demmas said.

The shuttered venue grant is the type of grants and programs Mayor Cantrell’s stimulus command task force is pushing to struggling business owners.

“We’ve spent the last two weeks working internally with our department heads, staff, and community partners to comb through the American Rescue Plan legislation and identify opportunities to leverage every available dollar of that $1.9 trillion that can benefit our people,” said Liana Elliott, Mayor Cantrell’s Deputy Chief of Staff.

Thursday the mayor announced she was alerted by the U.S. Department of Treasury it would need three weeks to write rules and regulations on how cities can use federal aid. Mayor Cantrell has said she expects the city to receive about $377 million over a few years.

The stimulus command task force consists of 28 members ranging from college/university presidents to community leaders. Each person is put in five different focus groups: case management, community services, workforce, economic recovery and investments, and public health.

“That is going to be the way that we get into communities that we literally go and reach out to our people individually,” said Mayor Cantrell. “Those who need hand-holding that’s what we will be able to do through the case management system that we built a little over a year ago. But we’re scaling it up now to do more.”

Demmas says outreach will allow businesses like his to stay afloat by applying for these grants.

“The amount we qualify for, if we get it, will transition us well into early next year. That will allow events to slowly get going,” said Demmas. “Get my staff back here, to remain open.”

Mayor Cantrell says it will continually update its COVID-19 hub with available grants for business owners. At the same time, city leaders are pushing parents to file their taxes to get additional resources through the expanded child tax credit.

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