Dozens of Aspen businesses apply for COVID-19 rent relief on first day of program rollout
ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR THE CITY OF ASPEN’S SMALL BUSINESS RENT RELIEF PROGRAM:
• Be currently closed by the Pitkin County Public Health Order and unable to operate remotely. Businesses offering take-out food are eligible, as well as businesses that deliver goods or products. Some businesses, like bike repair shops that were closed but can open this week also will be eligible, as well those that have been offering limited services.
• Have 35 or fewer full-time employees.
• Have a physical location in the city of Aspen.
• Possess a current city business license.
• Have a rent payment for the time period of April 1 to July 1, 2020 due to a landlord to whom the business has no ownership interest.
• Be current on all payments to the city, including, but not limited to the filing and remittance of a business license, sales and lodging taxes, water utility payments and electric utility payments.
• Open for business in Aspen on March 1; and have been in business since the beginning of the 2019-20 winter season. Start-up businesses in recent months will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
• Be open at least 32 weeks a year.
A total of 59 Aspen businesses applied for the city’s rent relief program as of Friday afternoon.
The online application went live on the city’s website at 9 a.m. Friday, with the first applicant filed at 9:05 a.m., said Mitch Osur, the city’s director of downtown services and parking, who is helping to oversee the program.
“I’m ecstatic,” Osur said, adding that the system worked as designed and there were no glitches during the online rollout of the roughly $1 million program. “Businesses are giving me a heartfelt thanks and saying this is really going to help them.”
Aspen City Council agreed earlier this week to allocating as much as $1 million for a small business rent relief grant program that will give local retailers and restaurants as much as $14,000 in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The offering is equal to one-third the monthly rent of a business for as many as three months and is good from April to July.
Businesses that are eligible for rent relief must have a landlord who is willing to also pay a third of the rent, with the tenant paying the remainder.
Osur said Friday afternoon that the majority of applications had come from businesses whose rents are lower than the average of $22,000 a month.
“This money can really make a difference and having smaller operations apply is a win in my mind,” he said.
Osur sent out an email to roughly 700 businesses just after 7 a.m. Friday alerting them to the online link. He said he expects many more to apply over the weekend.
Applications will be reviewed in the order they were accepted online.
Applicants are asked to provide their federal tax returns in person to City Hall from Monday through Thursday, or mail them to Osur at 130 S. Galena St., Aspen 81611.
If applications are deemed complete online with the correct documentation, the physical tax document will not hold applicants back in the queue, Osur said.
City officials decided it was safer to keep that sensitive information out of the online sphere in case of a ransomware or hacking scenario.
If applications online are not deemed complete, the business will be notified and will go to the back of the line, Osur noted.
Overall, the vast majority of applicants has followed the rules and is appreciative of the city’s efforts.
“I haven’t gotten a single complaint that it didn’t make sense or it didn’t work,” Osur said. “I’m pretty happy with how it played out.”
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