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New grants intended to help local “micro-businesses” are being prepared by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority (OCURA) and will be available to some small businesses soon.

Tuesday, the City Council of Oklahoma City approved an amendment to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) operating agreement with OCURA.

The amendment provides for the reallocation of $400,000 of program income for the establishment of a micro-enterprise grant program to assist small businesses in Urban Renewal areas that have been adversely affected by COVID-19.

A micro-enterprise, or micro-business, is defined as a business with five or fewer employees. Businesses meeting the criteria of location and size will be able to apply for grant assistance through a website administered by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority (OCURA).

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Qualifications

The grant program offers grants of up to $10,000 for businesses with 5 or fewer employees, including the owner.

Businesses must be in a designated Urban Renewal area shown in this MAP.

The owner must have a low or moderate income as defined by HUD or the business must be in a census tract where at least 51% of residents are designated as low or moderate income.

To qualify, businesses must have appropriate permits and licenses.

“We kept the application process as simple as possible so our microbusiness owners can take advantage of this funding, said OCURA executive director Cathy O’Connor in a press release provided by the City of Oklahoma City. “We know they are overwhelmed with hardships, and we want to help them get back on a path to stability.”

O’Connor is also the president and CEO of The Alliance for Economic Development for Oklahoma City, a private entity that does contract development for the City of Oklahoma City.

Grant funds may be used for payroll, occupancy (including utilities), business equipment, inventory, small business training, technical assistance and other necessary business expenses.

Funds may not be used for property improvements (including leasehold improvements), or expenses or activity from before final approval of the grant.

Program Promotion

The Alliance staff will be attempting some direct contact with potential recipients, according to O’Connor, in answer to questions from Council at Tuesday’s meeting. She also indicated that she would send information for Councilors to share on social media networks.

The grant money isn’t for every business fitting the descriptions above, however.

Some examples of businesses not eligible include non-profits, schools, churches, adult entertainment, lobbyists, banks, and government entities. A full list of qualifications and guidelines will be available once the website is live.

Staff are currently working on getting the application process online, but no deadline for that has yet been set.

OCURA staff will review applications, with a committee choosing the approved applicants and amount of funding.

OCURA expects to begin awarding funds by the end of May. A public relations professional is working with OCURA to help promote the program.


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