The Sandy Springs City Council has approved a program to offer $1.2 million in grants to businesses with fewer than 100 employees for COVID-19 relief.

The funds became available after the city was reimbursed $4.56 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds from Fulton County. Insead of putting the reimbursement back in the General Fund, City Council on Nov. 17 made a budget amendment for the Small Business Relief Grant program.

The city set three tiers of support for small businesses, starting with a single employee ($5,000), 2-10 employees ($10,000) and 11-99 employees ($15,000), City Manager Andrea Surratt said.

With approval in place, Economic Development Director Andrea Worthy will work with the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce and City Attorney Dan Lee on some details of the existing plan, said city spokesperson Sharon Kraun. The city will announce the three-week online application period sometime after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The application will include information showing how the business has been affected by the pandemic. A review panel will assure that the businesses plan to use the funds for costs related to COVID-19 response and not offsetting regular operating revenues.

Surratt said businesses could use the grant funds to reimburse the cost of business interruption due to the pandemic as a result of required closures, voluntary closures to promote social distancing or decreased customer demand.

The application process and a review panel will ensure that the funding is used for specific additional costs related to COVID-19 response and not offset regular operating revenues. And the city will have the right to audit the business to make sure the grants are used properly.

Lee said businesses awarded grants have to maintain the provisions to receive the money or they would have to pay it back.

Councilmember Tibby DeJulio said the size of the grants will not keep any business operating for very long. A $15,000 grant to a business with more than 11 employees won’t cover a single pay cycle, he said.

The principal use might be rent for two or three months, Councilmember Chris Burnett said. He expects some kind of federal Payroll Protection Program relief at the start of the year, with the city’s grants serving as a Band-Aid to get them through the next few months.

“It is a very small Band-Aid. But it might help through some rent payments for a couple of months, two or three months, on a couple of our small businesses,” he said.

In other pandemic relief efforts, the council also approved $220,000 in grants to nonprofit agencies and $80,000 to Visit Sandy Springs to run a marketing campaign intended to revive the flagging hotel industry in the city.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.