Valley Metro’s Small Business Financial Assistance Program pilot (SBFAP), launched this spring and has distributed more than $250,000 in direct financial assistance to 50 small businesses along light rail construction in Phoenix.
“Thank you so much for the grant. This really has made a big difference during a rough year,” said Albert Bahram, owner of Crazy Jim’s in downtown Phoenix and SBFAP recipient.
The $2.3 million pilot program, which kicked off in March, is designed to benefit small, locally-owned businesses adjacent to construction along the South Central Extension/Downtown Hub and Northwest Extension Phase II light rail construction corridors. This program was developed thanks to direct feedback from the local business community and is funded by Phoenix Transportation 2050 and the Phoenix Community Development & Investment Corporation (PCDIC).
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego agrees that preserving local businesses is critical. She said, “Light rail is an enormous and important investment in our community. It is equally important to ensure that businesses located near the rail construction zones survive and thrive. I have no doubt this much-needed assistance will keep our urban centers vibrant and active for generations to come.”
“The process of applying and receiving grant funds was very simple,” said Carlos Castillo, co-founder of Chino Mex in South Central Phoenix. “I received the funds within two weeks and we used it for payroll to keep our employees here working for us.”
“Small businesses are the driving force of our city,” said Phoenix Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia. “Between the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and long-term transportation construction, a grant through the Small Business Financial Assistance Program can make a big impact in keeping a business open.”
When asked about how business assistance has helped Chef Jamaris Kennedy’s catering business along Northwest Extension Phase II, Kennedy said, “We did receive $3,000 from the Valley Metro small business grant, which helped us. Some people may look at it like, ‘Oh, well, that’s not much,’ but it is to us. Being a small business, every penny counts.” Kennedy, who owns Jamaris’ Kitchen, has also been working with the Valley Metro business assistance team to develop a company website, at no charge to Chef Jamaris, so that the community can engage and learn more about his business.
“While the light rail extension will bring new opportunities and better transit options for residents, it’s vital we ensure construction does not negatively affect the small business community,” said Phoenix Councilmember Yassamin Ansari. “The Small Business Financial Assistance Program has already provided grants to 50 businesses and there is still funding available. I strongly encourage all locally-owned businesses near the construction to apply for a grant.”
The SBFAP currently offers two tiers of financial assistance that can be applied for annually. In Tier I, businesses can receive $3,000 during the pilot year or they can opt to apply for Tier II where they can receive up to $9,000 depending on their demonstrated business impact. SBFAP funds are intended to support and help sustain these small businesses and can be used to offset business operational expenses, such as rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance and payroll.
“Every little bit helps. Thank you,” said Brannon Kleinlein, owner of Last Exit Live in downtown Phoenix, who also received the SBFAP funds along with signage that directs the public to his business.
According to Jose Galindo, Valley Metro Business Assistance Coordinator, the program complements Valley Metro’s suite of business assistance tools that have been in place for years, such as increased signage and wayfinding, community events, social media/marketing assistance, accounting/financial planning and dedicated, single points of contact to serve all business needs.
SBFAP funds are still available and eligible businesses are urged to apply for the assistance. Applications can be made online, over the telephone or in person in English or Spanish. For help with the application, Valley Metro Business Assistance Coordinators can provide one-on-one, personalized support to interested businesses.
Valley Metro exists to connect communities and enhance lives each day by providing eco-friendly public transit options in Maricopa County, the fastest growing county in U.S. In Fiscal Year 2021, at just over 27 million riders, transit ridership experienced a sharp decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the call for essential trips only on both bus and light rail. While life in metro Phoenix returns to a new normal, progress continues on five high-capacity transit extensions that are either in planning or under construction to create a 50-mile rail system by 2030. In late 2021, Valley Metro will open the region’s first streetcar line in Tempe that features the Valley’s first off-wire operations in the system. Valley Metro also offers alternative transportation programs including paratransit services for seniors and people with disabilities, commuter vanpools, online carpool matching, bus trip mapping, bicycle safety and telework assistance. Two Boards of Directors from 18 local cities and towns and the county set the policy direction for the agency with the intent of advancing the regional public transit system in Maricopa County. In additional federal and local funds, Valley Metro receives critical capital and operations funds from Prop. 400, the 20-year, regional half-cent transportation sales tax that is set to expire in 2025.
In Aug. 2015, Phoenix voters approved T2050, a 35-year citywide transportation plan. T2050 is overseen by the Citizens Transportation Commission and includes improved frequency on local bus service, new light rail service and stations and major street improvement projects. Funding for T2050 comes from a 7/10ths of a cent city sales tax that started Jan. 1, 2016. Over the life of the plan, the funds are estimated to generate about $16.7 billion, or more than half of the plan’s overall cost. There will be an additional $14.8 billion from federal and county funds, passenger fares and other sources.