Communities participating in the Main Street Arkansas program, a part of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, will receive increased funding through their yearly Downtown Revitalization Grants.

The grants increased $249,500 over FY 2020, for the total grant awards for FY2021 being $559,000, and will be funded by the Real Estate Transfer Tax.

A spokesperson for Main Street Arkansassaid the need for additional grants was expressed by the communities in a survey conducted by the national Main Street program. The program is a network of over 1,600 commercial districts comprising approximately 300,000 small businesses.

Key findings of the survey indicated that:

Millions of small businesses will be at great risk of closing permanently if the crisis continues for several months. Of the nation’s approximately 30 million small businesses, nearly 7.5 million small businesses may be at risk of closing permanently over the coming five months, and 3.5 million are at risk of closure in the next two months.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on small businesses’ revenue, and millions of Americans employed by our nation’s smallest businesses are at risk of unemployment as a result. Approximately 35.7 million Americans employed by small businesses appear to be at risk of unemployment.

“We conducted a follow-up survey with our Main Street Arkansas communities,” said Scott Kaufman, director of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. “They told us that the most beneficial assistance to them would be rent relief, utility bill relief and payroll assistance. I am very pleased that we can offer this additional assistance in such trying times.”

Paris was initially going to receive a grant of $15,000, but now the city will be receiving a $20,000 grant, according to Main Street Paris Director Shawna Stengel.

As a benefit of participation in the Main Street Arkansas or Downtown Network programs, each community receives Downtown Revitalization Grants. The grant amounts, ranging from $3,000 to $25,000, vary based on a community’s level of participation and on the number of businesses in each commercial district.

“Main Street Paris will be using these grant funds to provide our downtown businesses with hand sanitizing stations, as well as using the funds for downtown improvement projects to make the downtown area more attractive.”

“Our Main Street businesses are the anchors of our communities. Main Street owners know their customers and see them every day,” said Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism Stacy Hurst. “I’m pleased we were able to increase funding to Main Street and Downtown Networks. Through these grants and the patronage of their friends and neighbors, these businesses will continue to drive local economies and contribute to Arkansas’s bright future.”