WALLINGFORD — Two town food establishments are the first to have passed the first hurdle to receiving federal pandemic relief funds.
The ARPA Selection Committee on Monday began reviewing applications for grants meant to make up for some of the financial hardships experienced by small businesses and nonprofits during the pandemic. Of the five reviewed that night, the committee approved the applications of Banana Ice Cream and Alyssa's Cafe to be recommended to Mayor William Dickinson Jr. and the Town Council to be approved for the grants.
Banana Ice Cream stayed open for the duration of the pandemic, but business suffered, owner Marissa Klimovich said.
"We had to shut down our seating area so it was curbside or takeout only," Klimovich said. "It was very difficult for us because we weren't able to communicate with customers and create that bond with them, so we feel like we lost some customers from that."
But unlike many small businesses, Banana Ice Cream survived, though it will take time to build back the business to where it was before the pandemic.
"Overall I think we did OK because we were one of the few ice cream stores that have been open, and a lot of people just want to sit back and relax and not have to worry about anything with a nice cup of ice cream," Klimovich said. The dining room has reopened, she said, and they only lost two employees during that time, both leaving to go to college. They will be hiring again at the end of March for the summer season, she said.
Banana Ice Cream is one of about 140 small businesses and 50 nonprofits who submitted applications for the grants. The federal government allocated $13.5 million to the town for pandemic relief, of which about half will go toward the grants. The rest will go toward municipal projects.
The Town Council appointed the nine-member committee to review the applications, using a criteria scoring process to evaluate their adherence to federal guidelines. Those scoring high enough will be recommended to the council and the mayor, who will make the final decisions as to who gets the grants and how much they will be.
The process continued Tuesday night with four more small businesses, Archie Moore's Restaurant, Academy Di Capelli, BioluminEscence and Barans Kenpo Karate, appearing before the committee, and Wednesday the committee will begin reviewing applications from nonprofits, with the Wallingford Public Library Association, the Wallingford Church of the Nazarene Food Pantry, the Lyman Hall Music Parents Association and Columbus House on the agenda.
The process is expected to continue through March, with the final grant decisions made by spring, followed by decisions of what municipal projects will get ARPA funding.