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Some Athens business owners appeared before Athens Economic Development Corporation during a public hearing on Tuesday about whether a fund should be created to help with their COVID-19 struggles.

The proposal is to set up a COVID-19 Small Business and Recovery Grant Program and the fund it with a total of $100,000. The grants would go to businesses who didn't get help from federal and state COVID-19 assistance programs.

"The intent is to catch the ones who have fallen through the gap," said Will Traxson, AEDC Board President.

The proprietors who spoke represented Extreme Auction Service, McCain Auto and Old West Bean and Burger. They said they funds just aren't there from the local banks to help them survive the loss of income.

"A lot of my friends own businesses," said Ken Stowe of Extreme Auction. "They last money that came out from the government went to the big companies."

Stowe said the shutdown due to the virus caused him to lose 85% of his business and had to change locations.

AEDC Executive Director Joanie Ahlers said the public hearing was required to allow the city to grant funds to a business that does not provide primary jobs.

"A non-primary job for example could be restaurants, or retail, even though they provide jobs and contribute to the economy," Ahlers said.

The Texas Local Government Code describes a primary job as employment at a company for which a majority of the products or services of that company are ultimately exported to regional, statewide, national, or international markets infusing new dollars into the local economy.

After the hearing and discussion, the board decided to send the item to the City Council for approval

On June 8, the council conducted a first reading of a Resolution authorizing the AEDC to develop and implement the program and authorize required Budget Amendment for the funding.

Ahlers said there was a concern with some members of the board and city council that businesses might double dip, getting money from federal or state programs and also the local grant. Applicants will have to submit a copy of their bank statements to demonstrate they have not received any additional funds.

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