City of Roanoke officials are attempting to reduce the economic strain of the COVID-19 pandemic on local businesses.

Roanoke City Council approved an agreement May 12 to provide funding for the Roanoke Stimulus Grant Program, which will contribute up to $200,000 to help keep businesses running “through a time of social distancing,” city officials said.

Each applicant for the business grant program may request up to $3,000.

The program is designed to assist independently owned businesses with 50 employees or fewer, officials said. Eligible businesses include retail storefronts, food and beverage establishments, personal care services, such as salons, barbershops and small manufacturing businesses, among others.

According to officials, national chains, home-based businesses, nonprofit organizations and businesses that have closed are not eligible for a grant.

To be eligible, businesses must demonstrate loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If the business does not own the building or the land where the business is located, they will be required to declare that they were not in arrears on rent prior to Feb. 29,” officials said.

Hit hard by social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions due to novel coronavirus, the “Unique Dining Capital of Texas” saw a year-over-year decrease of 21.08% for March sales tax revenue. The city collected north of $1.8 million in sales and use tax revenue in March 2019 and less than $1.5 million in March 2020.

Restaurants and dining establishments across Texas have felt an even greater impact, according to the Texas Restaurant Association. TRA numbers indicate that 84% of restaurant operators have laid off or furloughed employees, and overall sales for dining establishments are down almost 70%.

“Despite the reopening of Texas restaurants under careful guidelines, the hard truth is that thousands of local food and beverage businesses will not survive this pandemic,” TRA officials said.

Roanoke businesses that benefit from the stimulus program can use grant funds on rent or mortgage, employee salaries, utilities, purchase of supplies for alternative business access, such as curbside or delivery, and purchase of COVID-19 supplies for protection and cleaning, among other purposes.

“The city of Roanoke will review all applications to ensure completeness and eligibility,” officials said. “Applicants will receive notification of their application status within 15 to 20 days.”