Coronavirus

Small-business relief fund set in motion by council

The Los Altos City Council last week approved the eligibility criteria and application process for its new Los Altos Small Business Relief Assistance Program, designed to provide funding to local merchants forced to close their shops amid the shelter-in-place orders. 

The council May 12 gave the go-ahead for a five-member task force to conduct outreach for the program and establish the application and approval process. The same day, an online portal for donations to the program went live on Los Altos Community Foundation’s website.

Last week’s meeting marked the third time in a month council members discussed the program. At its April 18 meeting, the council passed a resolution creating the assistance program, allocating $250,000 from the city’s general fund to set it up.

At its April 28 meeting, the council finalized funding and launched the campaign through Los Altos Community Foundation.

Although council members unanimously supported the program, they debated the eligibility criteria last week, nearly continuing discussion to a special meeting.

Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins questioned initial criteria that left out chain operations, pointing out that Baskin-Robbins on State Street, though part of a national chain, is locally owned. Bruins also said the process leading up to last week’s meeting was rushed and discussion limited.

As Bruins read aloud from her notes, Mayor Jan Pepper asked her how much longer she was going to speak.

“If you don’t want to listen to our businesses, I’ll stop right now,” Bruins replied, pushing on.

Bruins and fellow council members Anita Enander and Lynette Lee Eng supported continuing the discussion to another meeting to allow time to collaborate with the task force. But Pepper and Councilwoman Neysa Fligor insisted on moving forward, delegating further changes to the task force.

“People are listening in,” Fligor said. “For this to come back to us a fourth time … I just don’t think it’s worth our time.”

The task force plans to gather feedback from businesses before finalizing criteria. Task force members include Kim Mosley, president of the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce; City Manager Chris Jordan; Anthony Carnesecca, the city’s economic development coordinator; Adin Miller, Los Altos Community Foundation executive director; and Town Crier co-publisher Dennis Young.

Revised requirements

The council approved Pepper’s final motion after dropping criteria that required businesses to have been operating for at least one year, have a minimum of six months remaining on their lease and have previously paid sales tax to the city of Los Altos.

The council mandated a public lottery be held among the businesses applying for grants – Los Altos counts approximately 800 small businesses.

The lottery will be conducted using an online random number generator.

Task force members reviewed the council criteria the day after the meeting. Their ultimate decisions on grant amounts, when to open and close the application window, when staff will review the applications and conduct the virtual lottery and when recipients will provide proof of expenditures to be reviewed by staff at a later date are all pending.

Members plan to publicize the fund and solicit donations from other community organizations, as well as participation from the town of Los Altos Hills. They hope to expand the fund to $1 million.

To donate to the fund and for more information, visit losaltoscf.org and select “2020 Los Altos Small Business Support Fund.”

New order effective Friday

The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department announced Monday that the retail sector, previously classified as “nonessential,” is part of the next phase of the gradual reopening of businesses.
County counsel James Williams said all retail stores with direct access to a sidewalk, street, outdoor walkway, parking lot or alley can offer curbside pickup beginning Friday. The order does not permit stores to display and sell unrelated inventory outdoors.

The revised order also allows businesses that support retail, outdoor museums, historical sites and publicly accessible gardens to reopen. An amended social-distancing protocol system also will be mandatory for all businesses.

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