Gaberino's Storefront

Pictured is the storefront of Gaberino's Homestyle Italian restaurant. (Photo Provided) 

Norman businesses struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic can soon apply for a grant program that could provide them with financial aid.

The Oklahoma Business Relief Program was recently created to offer funding for Oklahoma businesses that have faced economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Kevin Stitt initially allocated $50 million in Federal CARES Act funding for the program, but recently announced the OBRP will receive an additional $50 million dollars to help businesses in need.

Businesses were able to apply to the program on June 29, but the applications exceeded the initial $50 million just 24 hours after the application process launched. Over 2,400 businesses statewide applied for the loan, 24% of which are minority owned, according to the press release from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

The application process for the latest funding will open for businesses at 8:00 a.m on July 14. Businesses looking to apply for the second phase of the relief program should contact a participating financial institution, which can be found on OKCommerce.gov.

The funding requires that applying businesses experienced a 25% or greater loss in revenue from March through May 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to certain time periods in previous years.

Laura Duprez, owner of Gaberino’s Homestyle Italian restaurant, said she is in the process of getting the required information together to apply for the grant.

“Our (payroll) has decreased more like 50%, so we would qualify for the funding in that regard,” Dupez said.

Scott Martin, president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce, said the funding comes at a crucial time for businesses in the community. He said the OBRP is a great addition to other federal relief programs that have already been in place for a few months.

“I applaud the state for taking a significant portion of their CARES Act funding, and investing that into our small businesses,” Martin said. “By all accounts, their program and administration of the program has been simple and easy to navigate, which is great because the goal is to get relief into the neediest of business at this critical time.”

The funds, which will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis in order of application submitted, are permitted for use on expenses which can not be reimbursed through insurance or city, state and federal grants.

Nick St. Laurent, owner of il Dolce Gelato, said he has the paperwork ready for his banker to submit when the program reopens. He said this program shows the state is more focused on actually helping small businesses instead of the federal government.

St. Laurent said on the federal level, a business could be considered small while generating $75-100 million a year in revenue, and those types of businesses will have a larger payroll.

“The other programs though the federal level are all about payroll as opposed to the economic impact on your business,” St. Laurent said. “You can get employees paid which is fantastic, but your major bills are your electricity, your rent, your food costs. Where payroll may be 15-20% of your monthly expenses, these others are 50-60%.”

St. Laurent said his business was down 90% in the months of March, April and May compared to previous years at that time.

“(Some days) we made $65, and we normally make a lot more than that,” St. Laurent said. “Business is trending up, we are at about 75% now, but it’s just a tough time for all of us.”

St. Laurent has yet to receive the Economic Injury Disaster Loan or the individual stimulus payments, because the federal government keeps requiring additional information due to being self-employed. This has him eagerly awaiting the relief from the state.

“I told my banker, you’ve got to sit at that computer and be ready to submit the application as soon as 8 a.m. (on July 14) comes,” St. Laurent said.

Jeff Elkins

517-1933

Follow me @JeffElkins12

Jelkins@Normantranscript.com 

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