A tweak is being made to how one of New Bedford’s programs is infusing ARPA funds into the city’s business community, making the federal COVID-19 relief funds available to more businesses.

The City of New Bedford’s Enhanced Facade Improvement Program was the first recipient of the American Rescue Plan Act funds, announced just days after the city council voted to accept the funds from the federal government back in March.

The injection of $1.5 million into the program allowed for eligible commercial property owners, tenants and nonprofit organizations to receive a grant of up to $40,000 for improvements to the property’s exterior appearance.

However, applicants were required to provide a 25 percent match of any money received, in order for them to have accountability for the grant and show they’re serious about making the improvements.

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Some, including members of the New Bedford City Council, said the 25 percent match requirement was keeping some business owners from applying because it was financially out of their reach to kick in 25 percent.

On Monday, Mayor Jon Mitchell announced that in response to that feedback, the City will now make the first $10,000 of a project exempt from the 25 percent match requirement.

“I want to thank Councilors Ian Abreu and Maria Giesta for reaching out to me with constructive feedback on how we might improve the façade enhancement program,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said. “I agree with them that adjustments to the match requirement will broaden the impact of the program, while still ensuring that ARPA funds will leverage private investment.”

So far, 11 businesses have applied for funding in the Enhanced Facade Improvement Program in its first month. The announcement that the first $10,000 of any grant in the program is now exempt from the 25 percent match should lead to more applications in the coming weeks.

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