City Council approves $5.5 million small business incentive program


OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As local bands perform concerts online and restaurants turn into farmers markets, officials say it is just a couple of ways local businesses are trying to survive during the pandemic.

“The live music business is completely dependent on gathering the masses,” Tower Theatre and Ponyboy Operator Chad Whitehead said.

Right now, Tower Theatre is on pause. Bar staff, local musicians, and technical workers are out of work.

It’s similar to the tens of thousands of local businesses in the Oklahoma City area.

“I think the most frustrating thing right now, and all of us share it, is not knowing how long this is going to last,” Whitehead said.

Some relief is on the way for businesses after the Oklahoma City Council approved a $5.5 million incentive package.

It’s called the Oklahoma City Small Business Continuity program. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce helped develop the program.

“We looked at what was going on in other metro areas, what other cities are doing, and thought well, we should come up with something because we do have resources,” President & CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce Roy H. Williams.

There are three components to the program.

The first is a $1.5 million allocation to qualifying businesses with less than 15 full-time employees. Businesses would be reimbursed for up to $10,000 for retaining employees on payroll.

The second is a small business loan at $3 million for businesses with less than 50 employees. It provides 2% or 0% interest loan for up to $50,000 for 10 years.

The last is a technical assistance program at $500,000 to help businesses apply for loans, develop e-commerce plans as well as other educational resources.

Officials say contract workers also qualify for the program.

The money comes from general obligation bonds.

“Helping them get through the process of SBA loans. Maybe helping them with other kinds of business platforms or e-commerce or maybe best practices for remote practices,” Williams said.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said in a Facebook video there could be more local funding in the future.

“Their business, through not fault of their own, overnight became a threat to public health and their economic sacrifice is literally saving lives and we owe them more than our thanks,” Holt said.

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