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Virginia Beach officials consider $100k grant to help small, locally-owned businesses

It's called the District Improvement Program. The money must be used for small renovation projects.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The City of Virginia Beach has a new way to help small business owners who have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials are considering a new grant program that will give away a total of $100,000 in grants to "mom and pop" businesses in the city. It's called the District Improvement Program. The city’s director of economic development, Taylor Adams, said they're also calling it, "The Dip."

It will offer up to $10,000 to locally-owned businesses.

“It’s proposed to be for businesses with 50 or fewer employees that are not franchisees. So this is very much for mom and pops," Adams said.

He explained the money must be used to invest in the value of the business.

“It can be signage, it can be parking improvements, it can -- I don’t know if this will happen -- it can potentially be outdoor dining space," he said.

Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer said this new program is an extension of the successful redevelopment of the Virginia Beach ViBe District. But now, more small business owners in the city can apply for the money.

“Trying to help those small businesses not only survive but thrive and to give them the pathway to success," Dyer said. “The idea is to help those small businesses develop and give them the opportunity and the platform.”

Gus Frank, the owner of Atlantic Avenue’s Sunnyside Café and Restaurant, said the grant is something he’d support.

“Now with the situation the way it is. Every little bit helps," Frank said.  

The breakfast and brunch restaurant opened 10 years ago. Frank said he had to put a lot of minor improvements on hold and could use support from the city to make them happen.  

“We put off a lot of things that we were going to do like painting inside, outside last year," Frank said. "But when COVID-19 hit, everything was up in the air. We put a hold on a lot of things.”

Frank said a lot of businesses are struggling. Not to mention, it’s off-season at the oceanfront so things are slow. 

“With the COVID-19 on top of that, it makes it that much worse," he said. "With not knowing whether you’re going to be open tomorrow, or whether you’re going to have customers, you have to put a hold on a lot of plans.” 

The Virginia Beach Development Authority will meet Tuesday to make a final decision on the grant.