As initial unemployment claims numbers start to decline in Monroe County, Bloomington’s loan program and the county’s grant program, which draw on food and beverage tax proceeds, to support pandemic-impacted businesses, continue to make some allocations, even if they’re tapering off.
The latest unemployment numbers from the state put the number of initial unemployment claims in Monroe County at 354 for the week ending May 30.
Each week for the last four weeks, the number of initial claims has been around 400. That’s still right around the highest weekly total ever recorded during the 2008 economic downturn. The number of recent initial claims for Monroe County peaked at 1,627 at the end of March.
Both the city of Bloomington’s and Monroe County’s separate programs to provide relief to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to make awards, using proceeds from the 1-percent food and beverage tax.
Businesses don’t have to collect the food and beverage tax to be eligible for either program. The key eligibility requirement is that the business be tourism-related. That’s a requirement that stems from the statuary purpose of the tax, which is primarily to fund the convention center expansion, but secondarily can fund related tourism purposes.
The city of Bloomington has now loaned about $900,000 to 34 different businesses using food and beverage tax proceeds. Responding to a request from Bloomington’s city council, the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) has recommended up to $2 million be used for loans like this.
A separate city loan program providing relief to pandemic-impacted businesses does not have a tourism-related requirement, because it taps funds from the Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association (BUEA), not the food and beverage tax. The BUEA funds carry a geographic requirement—that the business be located inside the BUEA district. About $300,000 worth of loans using BUEA funds have been awarded by the city to a dozen different businesses.
The city maintains links to the most recent data on the awards on a webpage maintained on the city’s website. (Scroll to the bottom.)
The county’s grants are awarded at public meetings of the county commissioners. The most recent round of commissioner approvals came on June 3, with grants to The Golf Club at Eagle Point (a golf club) for $22,500, Whippoorwill Hill (event space on historic farm), for $13,500, Fern Hills Club, Inc. (a family nudist resort) for $10,000, and Bloomington Pub Quiz (trivia competition host) for $1,810.
That brings the total of grants awarded by the county to $245,124. The FABTAC has recommended the county can use up to $400,000 of food and beverage tax proceeds for its COVID-19 economic relief program, for businesses outside the Bloomington city limits. The FABTAC has recommended that Bloomington can use up to $2 million of food and beverage tax proceeds to give relief to businesses inside the city limits.
At their June 3 meeting, commissioners also discussed requesting that the FABTAC allow the purpose of the program be expanded geographically, so that grants could be awarded to an entity located physically within the Bloomington city limits, but which serves the entire county. The wording of the resolution reads:
The county commissioners request to expand its current requests to use $400,000 from the County’s Food and Beverage Tax Fund to include entities whose purpose and mission is to support the entire County in tourism related endeavors.
The request from the commissioners to the FABTAC stems from an inquiry made by the Monroe County History Center.
At their May 20 meeting, Bloomington city councilmembers got an update on the demographic distribution of businesses that have received loans. Director of the city’s department of economic and sustainable development, Alex Crowley, gave a breakdown that included 32 woman-owned businesses and five Black-owned businesses out of 50 applicants.
A question about Crowley’s use of the term “over-perform” in the context of those demographics came from councilmember Jim Sims. Crowley to said that it’s important to at least provide help at the same level as a specific demographic’s proportionate representation in the population. But that’s not adequate, he said, because these are businesses that have historically had difficulty accessing capital. So it’s important to over-perform by providing more than just the amount of help that would be suggested by the proportionate representation in the population, Crowley said.
In the public discussion that led up to the city council’s request to ask the FABTAC to allow the use of food and beverage taxes, some of the focus of the debate was on support of employees versus support of business owners.
In Crowley’s update on May 20, a percentage figure was provided for the aggregated amount of their loans that business owners are using on payroll: 39 percent.
Monroe County’s grant program awards
|Eagle Pointe (golf course, bar, venue)||$23,000||2020-04-29|
|The Golf Club at Eagle Point||$22,500||2020-06-03|
|Port Hole Inn||$20,000||2020-04-29|
|Whippoorwill Hill, LLC||$13,500||2020-06-03|
|Cabin Restaurant and Lounge||$10,500||2020-04-29|
|Wee Willies West||$10,000||2020-04-22|
|Beaumont House (bed and breakfast)||$10,000||2020-04-29|
|Whippoorwill Hill (farm event venue)||$10,000||2020-04-29|
|Fern Hills Club, Inc.||$10,000||2020-06-03|
|Big Sky Campgrounds||$8,950||2020-04-22|
|Trailhead Enterprises, Inc.||$8,528||2020-04-22|
|Sugar Daddy’s Cakes & Catering Cafe||$8,000||2020-04-29|
|Back to Nature Cabins||$7,000||2020-04-22|
|Sycamore Farms Bloomington, Inc.||$5,000||2020-04-22|
|Terry’s Catering, LLC.||$5,000||2020-04-22|
|Westbury Antique Market||$5,000||2020-04-29|
|Pili’s Party Taco||$5,000||2020-05-20|
|TJV Balloons, Inc.||$4,462||2020-05-01|
|Robert Woodling Rentals||$3,800||2020-04-22|
|Dance Machine DJ Services||$2,500||2020-04-29|
|Bloomington Pub Quiz||$1,810||2020-06-03|
|Trivia with Skip||$1,800||2020-04-22|
|On Pointe Pet Sitting Services||$1,200||2020-05-13|
City loan program awards
|Back Door Bloomington LLC DBA The Back Door||$50,000||$50,000|
|Baked of Bloomington||$50,000||$50,000|
|Big Brothers Big Sisters||$50,000||$50,000|
|Cardinal Stage Company||$50,000||$50,000|
|Nick’s English Hut INC||$50,000||$50,000|
|That’s the Rub||$50,000||$50,000|
|The Atlas Ballroom||$50,000||$50,000|
|Penguin Enterprises LLC dba The Chocolate Moose||$40,000||$40,000|
|MJSB LLC. DBA: B-Town Diner||$32,000||$32,000|
|Big Time Trading||$25,000||$25,000|
|Bloomington Massage & Bodyworks||$20,000||$20,000|
|Bloomington Playwrights Project||$20,000||$20,000|
|Dat’s Cajun Food & Btown Gyros||$16,000||$16,000|
|inBloom Eats & Juice||$15,000||$15,000|
|K&P Global DBA O’Child Children Boutique||$15,000||$15,000|
|The Ritz Hair Studio||$15,000||$15,000|
|The Art Venue||$14,000||$14,000|
|Cherry Canary Vintage||$12,500||$12,500|
|Bloomington Pets Alive||$10,000||$10,000|
|Bloomington Salt Cave||$10,000||$10,000|
|Wild Orchid Fitness & Dance||$10,000||$10,000|
|Fraternal Order of Eagles||$7,000||$7,000|
|Balance Lifestyle Services||$6,000||$6,000|
|Sew Secret Tailoring||$5,000||$5,000|
|A.E.A Design & Apparel||$3,600||$3,600|