Dec 19, 2023 - News

Denver businesses affected by homeless encampments apply for city grants

Illustration of a bag of money wearing a parachute

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new grant program for small businesses in Denver whose bottom lines have been bludgeoned by nearby homeless encampments has drawn a flurry of interest.

Driving the news: The city announced in November that small businesses affected by encampments within two blocks of their property were eligible for a slice of $1 million in federal grant money.

State of play: As of the Dec. 14 submission deadline, 313 applications had been received, Denver Economic Development & Opportunity spokesperson Shelby Morse tells Axios.

  • Businesses range from restaurants and hair salons to auto body shops, breweries and even preschools, an Axios Denver analysis of city application data found.
  • They include Cerebral Brewing in Congress Park, 3 Little Birds Salon near North Capitol Hill and Middleman on East Colfax Avenue.

Why it matters: The high demand underscores the scope of the city's homelessness problem, which ranks among the worst in the country and continues to grow.

  • Denver's business community has argued for years that encroaching encampments have led to falling foot traffic, slumping sales, and safety issues like property damage.

What they're saying: "We know the pandemic struck a major blow to so many Denver businesses, and many continue to face impacts due to encampments," Mayor Mike Johnston said in a statement when the program was announced.

  • "We took this important step … to ensure these businesses can survive and thrive."

How it works: Businesses are eligible for a one-time grant based on their annual gross revenue, and must provide evidence of profit losses in their application.

  • Those with annual gross revenues above $100,000 can receive $15,000, while those who total under $100,000 can get $7,500.
  • The one-time grants cover normal business expenses, including rent, mortgage, insurance and employee wages, Morse says.

Context: The federal funds are part of a series of pandemic-era relief grants that were dispersed in 2022.

  • Over the past two years, more than $5.5 million in grants has been given out to support more than 400 small businesses, per city statistics.

What's next: Denver staff are reviewing applications now and are estimated to hand out about 100 grants to businesses that have been most severely impacted, Morse tells us.

  • They will be announced in the coming weeks, she says.
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