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Aubrey offers COVID relief

The owner of the Mane Pup in Aubrey, Stacy Payne, burst into tears of joy Tuesday as she received a $10,000 check from the city to keep her local business running during the COVID-19 crisis.

Aubrey approved the business survival grant program May 6.

The Mane Pup is a pet grooming business that resembles a human salon in downtown Aubrey. The shop has been open for three years but had to close during the pandemic, Payne said.

“It was very confusing; Greg Abbott said it wasn’t on the essential list and then Denton County said that it was,” she said. “So, I was closed for about a month just to try and be respectful of others.”

She has many clients who are senior citizens, Payne said. She reopened around May 1.

“I received the full amount [of the grant],” she said. “It’s so exciting.”

She hired two new employees and needs to purchase new hair dryers and can now afford to use more electricity, Payne said.

“I haven’t been able to have the amount of electricity wattage wise to run several high-powered blow dryers,” she said. “So, that means new electricity for me, it means new blow dryers, new equipment.”

The Municipal Development District board met May 5 and approved the final version of the business survival grant program, City Administrator Mark Kaiser said.

“We’ve had an outpouring of desire by ... the entire MDD board; I’ve heard from several council members, is there anything that we can try to do to help with our local business,” Kaiser said. “A lot of the EDCs and MDDs throughout the state and nation are working on similar type programs.”

Businesses ranging in size from a self-employed, one-person operation to a business of 25 employees are eligible to participate in the grant program, Kaiser said.

“Because it is the MDD, we collect sales tax, and the money that we’re distributing [came from them],” Kaiser said.

He added that the city of Aubrey “will be accepting applications from the ETJ business as well.”

March 18 is the date the mayor made the first declaration of disaster, Kaiser said. That’s why it’s being used as a benchmark to assess need, he said, because changes in businesses’ profits since then reflect the impact the virus had.

Another important factor is the provision that if a business is in bankruptcy or has any felonies or issues of moral turpitude before March 18, they would be ineligible, Kaiser said.

“In other words, if this coronavirus, this emergency, caused some of their stress we can’t necessarily say what happened, but if they were into that situation, we don’t want to be sitting here helping somebody that was already going to fail anyway,” he said.

During a year period beginning from the program’s adoption, the maximum amount any business is eligible for is $10,000, Kaiser said. It’s important that the total amount budgeted and the amendment to the MDD’s budget be no more than $200,000 in total funds for the program.

“I want to make sure everybody’s clear it says here when the funds have been depleted, all applications after that date are denied,” he said. “So, ultimately, it’s just a first-come-first-serve till the funds run out. It wasn’t said that way, maybe that’s not the right way to kind of describe it, but that is the jest of what is occurring here as we discuss this program.”

The funding is expected to be spent within the next four months, Kaiser said.

“Applications are going to be processed by staff,” he said. “We’re going to have a review of those applications, and the process is going to be that the MDD board or appointees of the board are going to be in essence approving these applications and spending the money.”

Payne did her research while the Mane Pup was closed, she said. There were opportunities available, and she networked with other area business owners.

“I found the grant, printed out the paperwork and filled it out and submitted it online,” she said. “And, it’s my lucky day.”

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