Charlotte city leaders tackle affordable housing, economic mobility, the future of small businesses and COVID-19

Charlotte city leaders tackle affordable housing, economic mobility, the future of small businesses and COVID-19

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The company that is helping with affordable housing in Charlotte is also helping small businesses survive during this coronavirus pandemic.

LISC has partnered with Verizon to offer local minority small businesses up at a $10,000 grant. The money can go for payroll, utilities and other operational costs.

LISC says economic mobility and affordable housing go hand in hand.

“LISC does a variety of things,” LISC Executive Director Ralphine Caldwell said. “And the thing about LISC is we have a holistic approach.”

Verizon is chipping in $2.5 million to help minority small businesses.

Caldwell says she is working on finding more funds to continue to help small businesses during this crisis.

Damian Johnson of No Grease Barbershop likes this partnership.

“Any help that we can get from the community,” Johnson said. “From leaders, business leaders is an awesome task - so I commend them.”

Johnson employs about 50 people and has seven locations. All have been shut down. He says he has started to dip in his reserves to stay afloat. They thought of a small business getting a $10,000 grant is a good thought.

“$10,000 is like $10 million to any business right now,” Johnson said. “I think for a small business it makes the difference of if you are able to survive this thing or you are going to have to fold.”

Minority small businesses aren’t the only ones hurting. Charlotte small businesses met with city leaders Friday to voice their concerns and frustrations. About 20 small business owners said they needed more support from city leaders. Julie Blanton owns Midwood Flower Shop. At the forum, she told city leaders she needed clarity and consistency from them. She says at first the city told her her business was considered essential then she said the city said it wasn’t. Blanton claims she closed her shop while other flower shops remained open.

“It’s unfair to the ones of us that complied,” Midwood Flower Shop Owner Julie Blanton said. “We are missing Easter this year. We are going to miss Admin Day and we’re probably going to miss Mother’s Day - those three big holidays that are left that pull us through the summer.”

Lynn Leary also voiced her concern at the meeting. She has an HR Business and her business is considered essential. She believes the city should help her keep her employees safe.

“We do not have the equipment that we need,” Lynn Leary said. “Specifically masks - we are unable to get them. We attempted to get thermometers for temperature check - we are unable to get those.”

The city says it is listening and says it will have other meetings to figure out what more can be done to help small businesses in Charlotte.

Charlotte leaders have a lot on their plates from affordable housing, economic mobility, and now keeping small businesses alive when this pandemic ends.

Small businesses believe six to eight months from now will be the test to see who is still in business. They hope there are enough resources available to keep them in business

“We’re looking at every possible resource that is out there right now,” Johnson said.

The deadline to apply for the LISC and Verizon grant is April 4th at 11:59 PM. For more information click here.

Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved.