City of LIvermore

Scores of small businesses in Livermore can apply to receive between $2,000 and $20,000 in coronavirus relief funding through a new city-run matching grant program.

The Livermore City Council on Monday approved allocating up to a total of $2 million for matching grants to help defray business capital expenses needed to remain competitive through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grant program will be administered by the Livermore Office of Innovation and Economic Development. Applications will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis. It will apply retroactively to cover expenditures made since the March 16 stay-at-home order.

Unlike Dublin and Pleasanton’s zero-interest small loan programs that both launched in May to help businesses cope with the impact of COVID-19, Livermore’s grant program cannot be used for payroll expenses, and it has no repayment requirement.

Under the new program, the city will provide 50% of the cost of acquiring a range of equipment and services to adapt to the pandemic, up to a maximum of $20,000 per business. Covered expenses include, but are not limited to: measures taken to protect employees and customers, such as upgraded ventilation systems, plexiglass barriers, personal protective equipment, contactless menus and payment systems; and measures to comply with state and county public health orders, such as outdoor tables, chairs, heating, lighting or other equipment for outdoor dining, retail, fitness, cultural or professional services.

Funds can also be used to cover expenses for adjusting to pursue new markets or endeavors, like a brick-and-mortar retailer opening an e-commerce store.

Dublin’s microloan program was funded with around $520,000. The fund was depleted in a little more than two weeks. Sixty-five qualifying businesses were granted $5,000, $7,000 and $10,000 loans, and nearly as many that applied were turned away due to a lack of funds. Pleasanton’s loan program opened in early May with $3 million and continues to operate.

“Looking at the range of businesses we have in town that would be eligible under the criteria we’ve set, we wanted to make sure that we were helping as many as possible, and as deeply as possible, given available funds,” said Adam Van de Water, Livermore’s economic development director.

The program was initially proposed to provide a 25% match up to $20,0000. Based on feedback from local businesses and business associations, the city council increased the match to 50%. Even with the increased match, Livermore officials believe there are sufficient funds to meet the anticipated need. Van de Water said expenditures for downtown restaurants to operate during the winter months are anticipated to be in the $10,000 to $20,000 range.

To qualify for matching funds, recipients must have an active Livermore business license in good standing, insured business operations, employ a minimum of two people, and with annual gross receipts up to a maximum of $10 million. In addition, at least half of its business — retail, restaurant or professional services — must be provided from a physical location or to a customer within the Livermore city limits. The program is also open to nonprofits that meet the criteria.

Reopenings Outdoors for Personal Care Services, Wine Tasting, Pools

Starting on Friday, Aug. 28, hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, skin care and waxing services and nonmedical massages will be allowed to reopen outdoors.

Livermore City Manager Marc Roberts said it will be a challenging endeavor for businesses to reopen due to overlapping regulations from the state and county, which require access to water and sinks, among other things.

To help lessen the burden for personal care businesses that want to reopen outdoors and expand their businesses, Roberts said the city is extending its no-fee permit process through the Community Development Department, similar to the one put in place for outdoor dining and retail.

Outdoor wine tastings will also be allowed to resume. They had previously been illegal, unless paired with food.

“You can go back and essentially have a relatively normal outdoor wine tasting,” Roberts said. “So I know all of our wineries and all of our winery fans, in the community, were waiting for this to happen.”

Any music provided must be ancillary to dining; it cannot attract a crowd.

Outdoor swimming will also resume under the latest health order, Roberts said.

Mandatory Mask Compliance Update

At the City Council’s direction, Roberts said city staff have continued to monitor compliance of public health orders requiring people to wear face masks in public in areas where people gather.

Livermore city officials over the last few days have gained access to more granular data collected by the county’s public health department on positive cases in the city.

Vice Mayor Bob Woerner asked Roberts how the city is going to understand what’s driving its COVID-19 infection rates “to come up with more targeted strategies to bend the curve.”

Roberts said he believes some of the data will help, but as he’d previously mentioned, Livermore likely has higher infection cases than its neighbors in the Tri-Valley based on higher poverty rates, more people employed in service jobs, and because Livermore is a community that allows and facilitates community gatherings.

He further stated that mask compliance is generally good, between 90 and 95% downtown.

“When asked, we’ve had 100% of the folks who have immediately responded, they’ve generally been carrying the masks or have accepted a mask from us,” Roberts said.

He said issues are continuing to arise downtown later in the evening as the result of alcohol consumption, which is why the city has a last call at 10:30 p.m. and requires businesses to close by 11 p.m.

At the San Francisco Premium Outlets, where 160 of the 180 retailers are back in business, only 1 to 2 out of 100 people were observed without masks. Roberts added, foot traffic at the outlets has resumed to levels almost comparable to this time last year.

“Some very good news on that particular front,” he said.