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Designated Missouri Main Street communities report economic impact in their districts each quarter. Cumulative totals for the program.

 

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The money allocated to communities by the federal and state government, to be distributed in 2021 and 2022, has city officials and many others asking how this money can best be used to support businesses and help Main Street programs revitalize downtown. With all this money available to be used, Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) has been watching and learning from other coordinating programs and local Main Street programs on how city officials can support their Main Street programs or downtown using the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds as well as how Main Street programs can request funds from both the city and county for applicable projects. 


The ARPA funding was passed in 2021 and distributes money to counties and municipalities that can be used to assist Main Streets and business districts recover. There are areas of the act that allow for direct support to businesses that have suffered from the effects of the pandemic through loans, grants, or technical services. Local Main Street programs have a network and presence on the street to be able to help identify what technical services are needed for downtown and its businesses that will provide the targeted assistance needed to promote long-term success, which is the goal of the ARPA. MMSC’s staff are available to help local programs further identify areas of need and a palette of services that could be utilized to meet that need. Along with staff, MMSC has a network of specialist and consultants in various specialties to assist utilizing the Main Street ApproachTM to cover all of the quality-of-life aspects of a comprehensive strategy. You can find some of those services in our Service Directory.  

 

 


The other aspect of the ARPA funding is directed to nonprofits who are eligible for pass-through funding to build capacity for downtown revitalization. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Main Street programs are eligible to request these funds to build the capacity of the organization that directly relate to its ability and capacity to support downtown businesses through the Main Street Approach™. The best way for a Main Street program to approach the city or county is to develop a well thought out plan demonstrating the need and then proposing action items to address that need. This plan should be an updated and current comprehensive plan with identified goals and actionable items strategically addressing downtown’s needs considering the district market mix and more. Communities are in different stages across that state and may need help to establish and forecast goals for the next one to three years or develop Transformation Strategies that will direct the work of the Main Street program for the next two to five years. MMSC can provide an outside perspective, grounded in the Main Street Approach™, that guides the process and discussion on establishing the focused approach to bring together the board and committees.  There are two technical service grant options from MMSC to help with this planning process which leverage the resources of Main Street. One is the People Energizing Places (PEP) Grant, a 2-year grant that can be used for the planning process and request to the city or county as well as to help with the implementation process. The other is the Strategic Teams Engaging People (STEP) Grant, a 1-year grant that can be used for the planning process and request to the city or county. These two technical service grants are matching grants with the local program/city contributing 25% of the dollars for the services and MMSC contributing the other 75%. More information on both of these grant opportunities can be found here.

 

 


Do not miss your opportunity to leverage the dollars from the federal and state government to invest in the long-term success of your downtown district. Successful communities are distinctive communities. Our downtowns make each of us distinct from our neighbors down the road.  It is time to invest in our downtown not only for the current generation but also future generations.

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By now, I’m sure everyone has heard about the American Rescue Plan, one of the largest economic rescue plans in American history. It has a mix of initiatives to help economic recovery and to fight COVID-19's impact. The nearly $2 trillion plan is complex, and without guidance, it is hard to understand all of the uses and eligible activities for local communities or downtowns to utilize. Luckily, there have been several organizations following along for guidance from the federal government on the uses and application of the funds that will be disbursed to local municipalities, counties, and state governments.


“Municipalities and counties can use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State and Local Funding to help Main Streets and business districts recover.” Main Street America has been following the U.S. Treasury Interim Final Report along with other entities to provide guidance for local Main Street programs.


There are three main areas for Main Street action related to the ARPA funds.


For Small Businesses: ARPA funds can be used to financially assist businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Small businesses and non-profits, through ARPA, are eligible for grants, loans, and services that include: prevention measures or mitigation, technical assistance, counseling, or other services to assist with business planning needs. More information can be found on pages 34-35 of the U.S. Treasury Interim Final Report document.

                 

      

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

For Main Street Programs: If your Main Street program is a non-profit, ARPA allows for its funds to directly invest in building capacity and provide support for downtown revitalization. Multiple surveys have shown that Main Street programs were instrumental in supporting the business community downtown during the pandemic.


Main Street programs became communication tools advising small businesses on ways to adjust their business model during lock-downs and then reopen safely. Main Street programs worked with cities on new zoning, relaxing existing zoning to support more outdoor seating, or to-go alcohol sales to remove barriers for struggling businesses. ARPA funding can be used to ensure proper funding for staffing the Main Street program and assist with direct funding as fundraising efforts have been affected by the pandemic.


For Business District Recovery: The U.S. Treasury identified business districts as an impacted industry, so State and local ARPA funds can be directed towards the needs of the entire downtown business district (page 36). See more details on how the district can qualify through lost revenue on pages 58-60 which it includes employment loss or business income lost. Other qualifying metrics include vacancy rates, rent per square foot, reduced sales tax, or foot traffic. Look at your district to determine what might best work. Estimates are that 30% of restaurants closed nationwide and that may be your indicator of impact in your district. Business district financial support may be used for district-wide marketing, placemaking, and streetscape improvements. Business district support should also consider investing in the future of the district through entrepreneur support, district recruitment planning, or specialized support for retailers or restauranteurs.


Main Street America stated that “most Main Street businesses (73%) were started by local entrepreneurs – not outside recruitment activities. To support business district recovery, municipalities should support entrepreneurial ecosystem building activities.”


If you need help with business recovery activities or support, Missouri Main Street Connection is equipped to help. Missouri Main Street offers several matching grants to provide services to your downtown revitalization efforts.

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