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Covington: Business Incentives; Park Restrictions; Ticket Leniency

The City of Covington released a series of orders related to the coronavirus/COVID-19 global pandemic this week.

Here is a rundown:

Disaster loans to help small businesses

The Kentucky Small Business Development Center is ready to assist business owners with the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan application, contingency planning and financial management/cash flow planning.

"Your tax dollars have already paid for their time, so please contact them to request assistance and help your business navigate through this crisis," Covington Economic Development Project Manager Ross Patten said.

Most businesses qualify, including hotels, recreation facilities, manufacturers, restaurants, retailers, rental properties, and others, Patten said.

"We encourage all Covington businesses and non-profits that have been impacted by COVID-19 to contact the SBDC and apply for the SBA Disaster Loan as soon as possible," Patten said. "Applying does not commit you to the loan, but it provides options. As long as you have been affected by Covid-19, you can and should apply."

  • Disaster loans can be used for fixed debt, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that you would have paid if not for the disaster (such as rent payments, mortgage payments, equipment payments, etc.)
  • Loans are for up to $2 million.
  • The rate is 3.75% for businesses and 2.75% for non-profits, up to 30 years.
  • There are no collateral requirements for loans under $25,000, but there will be collateral requirements for loans over $25,000.

To contact the SBDC and learn more, visit https://www.ksbdc.org/coronavirus

Business incentives for rent, mortgages

Qualifying businesses can apply for up to $500 a month to help pay rent or mortgages under a new, temporary program the City of Covington has created to protect jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Emergency Disaster and Rent & Mortgage Business Assistance Program is one of three executive orders signed by Covington Mayor Joe Meyer late Wednesday to help local businesses stay solvent during the global health crisis.

The other orders waive permit fees and extend the tax filing deadline by three months.

"Early last week our team began looking at ways we could help our small locally owned businesses, avert some layoffs, and help assure a quicker recovery after the 'all-clear' is eventually sounded," Covington Economic Development Director Tom West explained.

"By taking an existing program like our rent subsidy for new businesses and modifying the parameters to help our existing businesses, we believe we can be part of the solution," he said. "Our initiative is intended to complement other means of assistance, including possible insurance claims, SBA loans and the federal stimulus being worked out now."

The city has set aside $200,000 for the program from its economic development fund.

The assistance is limited to four months' help. It's dispersed to businesses as a reimbursement of up to half their monthly rent or mortgage payment, or $500, whichever is less, beginning with the April payment.

As of now, the businesses must be in either in retail trade (falling under the North American Industry Classification System 44-45) or the accommodation & food services (NAICS 72). Those two sectors - which include small retail businesses and restaurants and bars - are among the hardest hit in Covington, with workers there most heavily affected by layoffs, West said.

Businesses that apply for rent and mortgage help from the city must be open at least 30 hours a week, unless ordered closed by legal mandate. And they must be working with the Kentucky Small Business Development Center on contingency planning and accessing federal disaster loans.

To apply or learn the details of the program, click here. An application doesn't guarantee funding.

City restricting playground use

Covington joins Newport and Independence in following the governor's guidance on restricting certain activities in parks and playgrounds during the coronavirus pandemic.

The city is taking steps like removing basketball rims and portable soccer goals and blocking off playground equipment.

The moves are designed to keep youth from spreading the highly contagious virus to each other and to people - like the elderly and those with unrelated health conditions like heart disease - for whom the acute respiratory disease COVID-19 is more likely to be fatal.

"If you're going to a park and playing a game of basketball, you're spreading the coronavirus right now," Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.

"If people aren't observing 'social distancing,' shut them down," he said.

Under the authority of a State of Emergency declared March 19, Covington Mayor Joe Meyer signed an executive order today related to parks and playgrounds that prohibited use of:

  • Shelters.
  • Slides, swings and "jungle gyms."
  • Basketball courts, soccer fields, and baseball fields. 

The directive applies to playgrounds owned by schools, churches, and non-profit organizations.

City officials lamented the need to take those steps but said warnings about "social distancing" and "safe usage" have been ignored.

"Our families and kids are using our playgrounds in outrageous numbers, and usually that's a great problem to have," the mayor said. "But in a time when we're desperate to slow the spread of this disease, that type of use is reckless, and we simply can't allow it," he said.

For now, green space, hiking, and biking paths at places like Devou Park, Riverfront Commons and the Licking River Greenway & Trail will remain open. But if the public ignores social-distancing guidelines by - for example - walking right next to each other in groups, those will have to be blocked off as well, City officials said.

Business taxes deadline pushed back 90 days

Businesses who must file occupational license and net profits tax forms with the City of Covington will automatically have an extra 90 days to both file the forms and make any tax payments.

The extension is one of three executive orders signed by Covington Mayor Joe Meyer late Wednesday to help local businesses stay solvent and protect jobs during the global health crisis.

The other orders waive permit fees and help businesses pay rent and mortgages.

The city's Finance Department authorized the tax payment relief in conjunction with broader and similar grace periods announced by the Internal Revenue Service for federal returns for individual taxpayers and by the Commonwealth of Kentucky for state returns.

"We're very mindful of the damage being inflicted on our businesses and the economy by the coronavirus pandemic, and we're trying to relieve a bit of the financial pressure," said Shannon White, the city's Revenue/Collection Manager.

The extension is automatic for employers, business entities, and individuals (such as owners of a home-based business like an LLC) who file the City's Occupational Fee & Business License Renewal Return, also known as Form OL-3. To get the extension, they do not need to apply for it.

The 90-day extension applies regardless of a business's fiscal year and filing deadline: An April 15 deadline is extended to July 15; a May 15 filing deadline is extended to Aug. 17; and a June 15 filing deadline is extended to Sept. 15.

Employers and business entities who pay any taxes due by the extended deadline won't be liable for penalties and/or interest between the old deadline and the new one.

Construction/permit fees waived

The City of Covington is temporarily waiving permit fees - but not application requirements - commonly associated with development, construction, and renovation projects to help protect jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The fee waivers - for dumpster permits, encroachment permits, and zoning permits - were contained in one of three executive orders signed by Covington Mayor Joe Meyer late Wednesday to help local businesses stay solvent during the global health crisis.

The other orders help businesses pay rent and mortgages and extend the tax filing deadline by three months.

"In times like this, even the smallest amounts of economic activity can make the difference between someone keeping a job or losing it," Covington Economic Development Director Tom West explained.

"We want to make it easy for homeowners and business owners to continue to invest in their properties and hopefully create sales opportunities for hardware stores and other businesses and job opportunities for construction workers."

Applicants must still apply for the necessary permits using the normal procedures and processes, but the fees associated with those permits are suspended temporarily.

The waivers were a collaborative effort among three City departments: Economic Development, which handles zoning; Public Works, which oversees encroachment permits; and Neighborhood Services, which oversees the dumpster permits, Neighborhood Services Director Ken Smith said.

"We all just put our heads together to figure out ways to keep projects moving," Smith said.

Leniency on parking tickets during street-sweeping days

The City of Covington said Tuesday that it will not be issuing parking tickets on street-sweeping days for the time being.

Daytime parking spots are harder to come by with more people staying home from work amid the coronavirus/COVID-19 global pandemic.

Typically, parking is restricted on certain days on certain streets when street sweeping is scheduled.

"We're trying to be understanding of the pressures being placed on our residents in Covington during this crisis," City Manager David Johnston said in a news release.

The city typically cleans its more visible commercial routes once a week throughout the year and its residential streets three times a year, starting April 1, said Troy McCain, supervisor of the General Maintenance Division in the Public Works Department.

"It's a very necessary service," he said. "It keeps litter and debris out of the drains, and it gets rid of stuff that attracts rodents and promotes diseases - not to mention making the city look cleaner."

The city has two regenerative air sweepers - one for commercial routes and one for residential streets - that use brushes to sweep debris toward the underside middle of the truck, where it's "vacuumed" and picked up. Ten spray nozzles help to keep down dust.

Normally, street sweepers clean the sides of a street on different days and signs direct car owners to park on the opposite side. Those who ignore the signs and block the sweeper normally risk getting a ticket. McCain said the street sweeper recently has had to maneuver around parked cars, but not as many as one might expect.

"Most of the residents have been moving their cars. They've told us they're glad to see the street sweeper coming because they want their street cleaned, even during this time," he said.

"As long as we can continue being effective, we'll keep to our schedule as much as we can."

-Staff report