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Richmond Opens Aid Program To Businesses Hit By Civil Unrest

a photo of the facade of Babe's bar with plywood over the windows
Babe's, a Carytown bar and restaurant, was one of many Richmond businesses that boarded up during weeks of nightly protests. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Richmond businesses damaged during recent anti-police brutality protests and riots will get help from the city for repairs. 

Richmond City Council voted to extend an existing grant and loan program to those businesses Monday night. The ordinance, first proposed by Mayor Levar Stoney, would open up the city’s Commercial Area Revitalization Effort (CARE) Program to affected businesses. The program provides access to $3,000 rebates for building repairs and up to $10,000 in emergency loans. Since 1992, the program has been focused on supporting businesses in several low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

Leonard Sledge, who heads Richmond’s Economic Development Authority, said the funding for the one-time loans to damaged businesses — around $500,000 in total — comes from unspent money within the existing program.

“Us using some of the funds on a one-time basis doesn’t impede our ability to still make grants under the CARE Program,” Sledge said.

At Monday’s meeting, Richmond City Council members voted 7-2 to open up the program. Council members Michael Jones and Ellen Robertson opposed it.

Second District Councilwoman Kim Gray, who is vacating her seat to run for mayor in November, said she hopes the city can do more to help struggling businesses. She said many have been hit with a “double whammy” of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest.

“For too many of these businesses, it’s a little too little too late,” Gray said. “Just one sheet of plate glass window can cost $2,500 and many of the store owners did not have riot insurance.”

Mayor Stoney’s office said in a statement Monday morning that the eligibility guidelines for affected businesses will be made available on the city’s website soon. Electronic applications will be accepted starting August 13.

CORRECTION: We have corrected a typo. Kim Gray said one sheet of a plate glass window can cost $2,500 - we incorrectly wrote $2,5000.