Artists and independent restaurants may soon receive a much-needed boost via grant funds

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Courtesy BKBIA Los Angeles artist Push is creating an abstract mural on the north-side wall of the Expo Arts Center in Bixby Knolls this week.

At the Nov. 17 Long Beach City Council meeting, councilmembers discussed the creation of two separate grant fund opportunities—one for artists and another for independent restaurants.

Artists Fund

Councilmembers directed City Manager Tom Modica to report back on establishing an artists fund that would provide local artists $500 monthly in financial support for six months. If approved, the fund could assist 150 qualifying artists.

“Our artists and our cultural workers are the lifeblood of our city,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “They make our city strong, diverse, many are already lower-income folks who do the work because they love it, not because it’s highly paid.”

Since the shutdowns first began in March, many arts and cultural institutions have been stunted or forced into a standstill. The City’s health order prevents large gatherings, which are often an integral part of events like plays, symphonies or live concerts.

“Our artist community has been devastated by the impacts of COVID-19, like many other sectors of our economy,” Councilmember Al Austin said. “This item is a creative initiative for a creative culture that is very important to the identity of our city.”

The proposal would be funded through CARES Act Community Block Grant Funds. Garcia described the move as a continuation of the City’s work on guaranteed income, similar to their emergency rental assistance program and guaranteed basic income pilot program.

Modica will report back on the plan at a future council meeting.

Grants for Independent Restaurants

Councilmembers also discussed the creation of a $1.3 million grant fund to assist businesses impacted by the pandemic, particularly those that have been closed for extended periods due to the City’s health order.

While the item was originally meant to help a variety of businesses, Councilmember Rex Richardson recommended that the funds be focused on full-service independent restaurants.

“There is certainly a lot of anxiety amongst the restaurants,” Richardson said. “I’d love to make sure that these dollars have as great of an impact as possible to the restaurant sector.”

In an effort to assist more businesses, Richardson directed staff to focus on fire, health and alarm fees over business licensing fees.

The grant would amount to the total business license taxes and fees billed to that restaurant during 2020. The recommended application period is from Jan. 1, 2021 to March 31, 2021 to be reimbursed for 2020 calendar year fees.

Businesses must be “severely operationally restricted” for at least 30 days to receive the pro-rated amount. Businesses will receive a 100% grant after 90 days of closure, Modica said.

The City will pay for the program with any available grant funds and then from the City’s general fund emergency reserves.

The item also included a recommendation to allow the deferral of payment of business license taxes and fees until March 31, 2021.

Both recommendations were unanimously approved by the council.

The next city council meeting will take place Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 5 p.m. via teleconference.