A national grant extended the reach of a local Tulsa program designed to help businesses stay afloat during the global pandemic.

Kendall Whittier Main Street announced its Rent Relief Program in late April that paid partial or full rent for businesses in the Kendall Whittier commercial district. The first round of funding – May’s rent – was supported primarily with donations from local foundations.

The Rent Relief Program was one of eight projects nationwide to receive a $10,000 grant from The Grills Fund for Main Street Revitalization by Main Street America, allowing the program to extend for June’s rent.

In total, all 13 businesses that applied received some funding for June’s rent relief. These businesses represented 10 separate landlords.

“These winning ideas represent the ingenuity, resiliency and entrepreneurial thinking that have made Main Street a powerful tool for revitalization and will be vital to economic recovery moving forward,” said Main Street America’s President and CEO Patrice Frey. “These programs have not only actively positioned their communities and programs for success, but they have also offered model approaches that can be adopted by other Main Streets responding to the impact of COVID-19 across the country.”

This Grills Grant Fund was created to support innovative revitalization efforts to address the current and/or legacy impacts of COVID-19. It is made possible through the generosity of Joe and Marge Grills of Rapidan, Virginia. The Grills have been long-time leaders in supporting Main Street at both the national and local level.

Additional funding for June’s Rent Relief came from Peoples Bank, Flash Flood Print Studios’ ‘United We Thrive’ t-shirt sales and individual donations.

“We are so thankful for how many foundations, businesses and individuals have rallied behind Kendall Whittier and this program to financially support it,” said Jessica Jackson, executive director of Kendall Whittier Main Street. “It has allowed businesses to focus their limited income on other aspects of the businesses – keeping employees, marketing services, buying sanitizer and masks, e-commerce development and other such needs.”

Most businesses in Kendall Whittier closed to the public in March with the rising concerns and restrictions as COVID-19 hit Tulsa. Seeing revenue cuts of around 90 percent, businesses had to get creative.

“I have been really proud of how the business owners adapted over the last two months to continue to serve Tulsa safely and responsibly,” Jackson said. “Still, the economic climate is tough, and some were continued to struggle. We wanted to help.”

So far, $31,050 has been granted directly to property owners on behalf of the businesses. The program has been funded by the Grills Grant, George Kaiser Family Foundation, Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, Kendall Whittier Main Street,Peoples Bank, Flash Flood Print Studios and individual donations. Individuals who would like to make a tax deductible donation can do so online here.

“Even as businesses reopen, they are doing so at partial capacity and a lot of customers are still not ready to venture out,” Jackson explained. “The financial impact will stick around all summer, or longer.”

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

The Rent Relief Program offers grants of up to $1,500 for Kendall Whittier businesses. 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. So far, the program has been able to fund everyone who applied at least partially

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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