Page 11 - BusinessWest February 17, 2021
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 Paul Bockelman said he’s worked with chamber and BID leaders to address the urgent needs of the business community during the pandemic.
As plans were coming together to allow out- door dining, the Town Council passed a special bylaw to delegate simple zoning decisions to the building commissioner. This move sped up the permitting process and cut down on much of the bureaucratic red tape.
“For example, permits for serving alcohol out- doors or expanding the footprint of a restaurant could be done through one person instead of going through an often-lengthy permitting pro- cess,” Bockelman said.
To address the urgent needs of the local busi- ness community, he also met weekly with Gould and Claudia Pazmany, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. The BID
and chamber share office space on Pleasant Street, so Pazmany and Gould worked together to learn about the many grants available to local businesses impacted by COVID-19. The main goal was to help owners stay in business.
“We knew that closing their doors would mean closing their doors forever,” Pazmany said. “That’s what we were trying to avoid.”
Granting a Reprieve
Before the pandemic, the chamber would host 56 events in a typical year. Pazmany said she quickly moved to digital events to keep everyone together. “We went from 56 events to 56,000 con- nections on Facebook and other social media.”
More importantly, in addition to helping local businesses apply for the federal Paycheck Protec- tion Program (PPP), Gould and Pazmany have successfully secured grant programs at the state and federal level.
A number of Amherst businesses received grants through the state COVID-19 Small Busi- ness Grant Program, which provided a total
of $668 million for Massachusetts businesses. Amherst also secured $140,000 in federal Com- munity Development Block Grant funds for local businesses.
“Many of these business owners are not even paying themselves; they just want to pay their bills.”
State Sen. Joan Comerford helped the Cham- ber and BID to fund the recently formed Relief and Resiliency Microgrant Program. Originally designed to provide $500 microgrants, Pazmany said they were able to secure matching dollars, so $1,000 grants will soon be awarded to 18 of Amherst’s small-business owners in the first round of the program.
“The microgrant money will help defray some costs and allow people to keep going,” she said. “Many of these business owners are not even paying themselves; they just want to pay their bills.”
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