On Thursday, March 27, Americus Main Street released two COVID-19 Disaster Relief Grants to offer funding to downtown businesses negatively affected by the pandemic. Grants were created to offer assistance with electric bills and minor operating expenses for the months of February and March. Through funding provided by Friends of Downtown Americus, their 501(C3) non-profit organization, Americus Main Street has been able to successfully award a total of $16,720.39 to more than a dozen downtown businesses in need.
In 2016, Americus Main Street received a $15,000 grant from Georgia Power to assist businesses with electrical upgrades to historic buildings downtown. With this funding, Americus Main Street created the Turn the Lights On (TTLO) Grant and has awarded over $9,000 to date. Main Street Director Qaijuan Willis sought approval from Georgia Power to allow Americus Main Street to re-allocate the remaining funds from the TTLO Grant to initiate a Keep the Lights On Grant to offer assistance to businesses with their electric bills during the unprecedented times of COVID-19 and pitched the idea to the Main Street Board. Willis also solicited approval to locate additional funds from the Friends of Downtown Americus budget to create a Restaurant & Retail Disaster Relief Grant which would offer a maximum of $1,000 per business to assist with minor operational expenses. “We continue to send information to our merchants regarding loans and grants that become available which could benefit them during this time,” said Willis. “We thought it would be nice to offer some form of funding from our organization locally to show our businesses that we are concerned, and we care about what they’re experiencing. Americus Main Street believes that downtown is the heartbeat of Americus so we rallied together to assist businesses that have witnessed a decline in business since the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Recipients of the grant were: Code Black ATL, The Maze, The Kinnebrew Co., Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio, Farmhouse Americus, Minick Interiors, 1800 Mexican Restaurant, Love at First Sight Ultrasound & Boutique, Client First Insurance Solutions, Inscape Design Studio, Café Campesino, Lounge 323, Shakti Food Mart, and Artfully Arranged Floral Shop & Gift Boutique.
Americus Main Street Board Chairperson Angela Smith stated, “In a city the size of Americus, our small business owners are our friends and neighbors, so it was important that we think out of the box to address how we met the needs of our Main Street merchants, restaurants and service providers. By repurposing funding sources intended to help grow our Main Street, our hope is to do whatever we could to keep it alive.”