Neighbors Helping Neighbors
The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Amherst Business Improvement District’s launch of the Relief and Resiliency Microgrant Program to provide financial relief to Amherst-wide small businesses affected by COVID-19 closures, through the newly formed Downtown Amherst Foundation (DAF). The foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was formed as a means to develop downtown Amherst cultural projects, such as a permanent outdoor performance space, but has shifted its focus to support Amherst economic stability during this difficult time.
Now, the Downtown Amherst Foundation is expanding its focus to all of Amherst, with the launch of the Relief and Resiliency Microgrant Program, executed and managed in partnership with the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. The goal is to raise $500,000, and $80,000 has been raised so far.
The negative economic impact of COVID-19 is unprecedented. In downtown Amherst alone, more than 70% of surveyed businesses said they could not survive a shutdown through May. The Downtown Amherst Foundation’s program intends to offer microgrants to small, local businesses and individual contractors to meet their short-term financial needs. The grant can cover employee wages and benefits (including benefits associated with employment, such as health insurance), accounts payable, fixed costs, inventory, rent, and utilities. The grants are available for Amherst small businesses, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals who operate brick-and-mortar businesses.
The foundation hopes to have funds in place and be open for applications on May 1, with an initial deadline of May 10. Subsequent deadlines will be announced. Individual donations are needed and will be tax-free. Checks can be sent to the Downtown Amherst Foundation, 35 South Pleasant St., Amherst, MA 01002, and gifts can also be made online at www.downtownamherstfoundation.org.
The new focus addresses the challenges and shortfalls of the federal stimulus package as a way to manage continual fiscal costs to help Amherst businesses weather the uncertainties of the pandemic and put them on sound footing. Amherst’s economy is uniquely aligned with higher education, and the shutdown and closures of the colleges and university hit the town earlier than other communities in the state.
The grant review committee includes Irvin Rhodes, organizational development consultant; Ellen Brout Lindsay, nonprofit consultant; Tony Maroulis, executive director of External Relations & University Events, UMass Amherst; Ralph Tate, investment-management specialist and treasurer of Kestrel Land Trust; and Glenn Barrett, CEO of Ortholite. These community members say they are united in their love of Amherst and have no conflicts of interest as business owners or landlords.
The initial push will be fundraising through Patronicity, an organization that partners with state agencies, foundations, private corporations, and granting organizations to offer pools of funding, often in the form of grants, to the organization’s constituent communities. Thomas Moore of TigerWeb, a digital marketing firm, donated the program’s logo design.
E-mail Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, with any inquiries at [email protected].