LAFAYETTE (KPIX) — When Congress finally approved another round of relief payments for small businesses they may not have been thinking about places like Lafayette.
“They’re still considering businesses with 300-500 people as a small business,” said Jay Lifson, executive director of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. “In our town … half of our chamber members have one to two employees.”
There are very few accounting departments here to navigate the complexities of applying for government help.
On Monday, this Contra Costa County city will relaunch its Small Business Assistance Program which was shut down when the first round of COVID-19 relief funds ran out. Instead of handing out a few grants from its meager budget, Lafayette has spent its money to hire a Sacramento lobbying firm called Townsend Public Affairs to walk local business owners through the complexities of government bureaucracy.
The program helped John McCormick at Lamorinda Music get help and it also identified performing arts grants to support the music teachers who worked out of his building.
“Nobody knew about it,” McCormick said. “So not only did they help our business but they helped 25 teachers that are their own little businesses to do better.”
At the Vitality Bowl Superfood Café owner Gabi Lazar says the health of her business depends on its success at adapting to a changing environment.
“Having somebody that’s going to be a point person or just giving us resources — information — is very much instrumental in how we operate on a daily basis and also if we stay open or not,” Lazar said.
Lafayette will pay the lobbying firm $10,000 per month but the chamber of commerce director defends the plan saying, for that money, they can help all small businesses in town, instead of just a few.