$85 million more sought for Ready for Business grants; barbershops, hair salons can reopen May 6

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,172 views 

A steering committee on Friday (May 1) approved an additional $85 million in funding for businesses preparing to reopen, bringing the fund total to $100 million. The additional money is subject to approval by a six-member legislative panel recently created to make decisions on COVID-19 funding.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on March 29 unveiled the Arkansas Ready for Business grant program, to be administered by the Arkansas Department of Commerce, for the purpose of helping a wide variety of businesses that may be allowed to reopen in the coming weeks and months. Money for the program came from what Arkansas was allocated from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved by Congress to provide aid to individuals, businesses and state and local governments in response to the pandemic.

However, the program was halted shortly after it was launched because legislative approval had not yet been received, and initial demand suggested the $15 million would not be enough. Of the 2,392 applications filed before the program was halted, around 1,400 were from businesses with fewer than 10 employees. The grants are capped at $100,000 per business.

Following are recommendations made Friday by the 15-member CARES funding steering committee the legislative panel will consider.
• 15% of funding goes to minority/women-owned businesses
• 75% goes to businesses with 50 or fewer employees
• Businesses who, following an audit, are determined to not have spent the money for allowable purposes must pay back the grant.
• Small businesses with 1099 forms can apply for the grant.

Sens. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and Will Bond, D-Little Rock, opposed adding $85 million and instead recommended $35 million. That effort failed. It is unclear how soon the six-member legislative panel will act on the recommendations.

Gov. Hutchinson also announced Friday that barbershops, hair salons, cosmetology services, massage therapy, body art and medical spa services may open with restrictions on May 6.

Following is a summary of the guidelines for the businesses that choose to open. A more detailed directive is to be posted to the Arkansas Department of Health website later on Friday.
• Ten or fewer in the business, with six-foot spacing observed in waiting areas.
• In larger facilities, no more than 30% of stations can open
• No walk-in appointments
• Clients should wait outside or in cars until they are ready.
• Time must be created between an appointment to clean the stations.
• Vulnerable populations are encouraged to not visit a barber or hair salon.
• Face coverings are required for staff and for clients when possible.
• Gloves should be worn.
• Hands must be washed between clients.
• Appointments must be postponed if the client exhibits any symptoms, even if attributed to allergies.

Known COVID-19 cases in Arkansas totaled 3,321 as of Friday, up from 3,255 on Thursday. Of the total cases, 1,284 are active cases, with 1,973 recoveries. The number of deaths rose from 61 to 64. Of the 64 deaths, 23 are nursing home related. The number of COVID patients hospitalized in Arkansas was 95 on Friday, unchanged from Thursday. Of the COVID-19 patients, 23 were on ventilators, unchanged 23 on Thursday.

As of Friday at 1 p.m., there were 1,082,411 U.S. cases and 63,127 deaths. Globally, there were 3,303,296 cases and 235,290 deaths.

KATV senior political reporter Marine Glisovic contributed to this report. KATV, a Little Rock-based television station, is a content partner with Talk Business & Politics.