Owners of many Kendall Whittier businesses can breathe a sigh of relief this week as a new rent relief program is covering all or partial rent for each to help combat the economic effects of COVID-19 closures.

The program is issuing rent relief support just shy of $20,000 in total for the month of May. In all, 14 businesses received the grant in this first month.

In partnership with the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, Kendall Whittier Main Street has launched its Rent Relief Program, supporting both local businesses and Kendall Whittier landlords.

“We heard from many of our businesses that federal and state programs were just not quite enough,” explained Jessica Jackson, executive director of Kendall Whittier Main Street. “They were having trouble just paying their rent after having been closed – or severely limited – for six weeks.”

Many are reporting revenue cuts of around 90 percent since mid-March. Business owners have been scrambling with changing their business models to include online ordering and delivery, or creating unique ways to raise their revenue.

“GKFF is happy to support these small businesses, which have played such an important role in making Kendall-Whittier a vibrant and inclusive neighborhood,” said Josh Miller, program officer for the Foundation.

Local landlords have worked with businesses on discounted rates, but also are finding a financial hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They are a big part of the transformation of Kendall Whittier as well,” Jackson said. “They’ve invested in infrastructure and rehabbed buildings over the years. We want to be sure they can pay their mortgages, too.”

The organizations hope to be able to offer the grant in June as well. With such a high response for May, the program is in need of more funds to open back up.

The initial fund was set up by GKFF, LTFF and Kendall Whittier Main Street. Peoples Bank has contributed as well. Individuals who would like to make a tax deductible donation can do so online here.

“I want to thank George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Lobeck Taylor Foundation and Peoples Bank for supporting small businesses in Kendall-Whittier,” said Maria Barnes, KWMS Board member. “We are a close-knit neighborhood, and we take care of each other and it shows.”

The Rent Relief Program offers grants of up to $1,500 for Kendall Whittier businesses struggling to pay rent right now. If granted, payments are made directly to the landlord. It is also open for businesses that own their own property to help cover mortgage costs.

Priority was given to applicants who have seen a reduction in revenue of 50 percent or higher, rely heavily on public foot traffic and have demonstrated creative or innovative means of engaging customers.

Kendall Whittier Main Street is a nonprofit organization that inspires the ongoing revitalization and growth of a historic and cultural neighborhood in Tulsa, striving to transform it back to a thriving, walkable commercial district. Kendall Whittier is a Certified Cultural District.

For more information about the Kendall Whittier Main Street, please call or text 918-633-1934 or email info@visitkendallwhittier.com.

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