BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Birmingham City Council forgave tens of thousands of dollars in loans for local businesses on Tuesday, in a move that Councilman Hunter Williams is questioning.
”I guess my overall question is, why do the taxpayers need to be on the hook for this?” he said.
The resolution approving loan forgiveness for a handful of small businesses in Birmingham passed unanimously. However, Councilor Darrell O’Quinn says it’s important that taxpayers benefit.
“Making sure that we’re doing this in a way that is responsible for using those tax dollars, that’s really having a benefit back to the public,” O’Quinn said.
Roderick Conwell owns the Uptown Jazz Lounge and had a $17,000 loan wiped clean for improvements to his business.
“It will definitely enhance the appearance of the uptown entertainment district with our illuminated sign and a garage door that really make a difference in how our customers get to experience uptown jazz lounge,” Conwell said.
The forgivable loans are part of a federal program and not the city’s general budget. The program uses community block grant funds to help small businesses make improvements that make the business and the city shine a little brighter.
Councilor O’Quinn believes the move is a win-win for the city.
“A lot of them do have storefronts in areas we want to see revitalized and using our community development block grant funds is one of the tools that we make available to assist small businesses with expenses,” O’Quinn said.
Lemar Storey owns Life Touch Massage which has two locations, one in East Lake and the other on 2nd Avenue South in Birmingham. He received approximately $50,000 in improvements to his businesses.
”I’m very grateful for the investment in us,” Storey said. “As a small business owner, sometimes you might feel a little ignored by the city or your government but it’s very appreciated that the city of Birmingham sees us and appreciates us and reinvests back into our businesses.”
The $130,000 in loan forgiveness was applied to four businesses in total. In addition to Uptown Jazz Lounge and Life Touch Massage, loans were also forgiven for Bistro 218 and Jazzi’s on 3rd Music Gallery.