Cupertino moves toward small business relief program

Several weeks after neighboring cities have implemented small business grant programs, aimed at supporting those establishments harmed by the drop in business due to COVID-19, Cupertino is moving closer to its own program.

Discussed more than seven hours after the start of its meeting Tuesday, the Cupertino City Council directed staff to act.

City staff recommended using $229,000 of funds from the federal CARES Act program. The Council approved the allocation at a May 19 meeting, but the program has continued to develop.

Nearby, Santa Clara has thus far provided 152 grants, totaling nearly $1.1 million. Cupertino’s council pushed staff for answers about how the funds could be directed at only those harmed by COVID-19.

Unlike Santa Clara, which has used a first-come-first-served system, Cupertino is likely to use a points-based system. That would take a number of factors into account and award the $5,000 grants depending on which companies score highest.

The council also wondered why staff recommended utilizing a third-party for administering the program. Most other area cities have administered the program using in-house city staff. City Manager Deb Feng noted that using a third-party administrator would save costs, allowing more money for grantees.

Once application documents are available, it would likely take several weeks for funds to be disbursed. A weeklong application period, followed by review and verification, adds to the timeline.

The result of Tuesday’s council action leaves the City Manager with the ability to contract with a third-party administrator.