In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, executive directors of the Augusta Downtown Alliance and Gardiner Main Street knew something was clear: many of their downtown small businesses would be in need of financial help and need it quickly. To help, Michael Hall of Augusta Downtown Alliance and Melissa Lindley of Gardiner Main Street formed the Kennebec Valley Downtown Relief Fund (KVDRF), an emergency grant program for the small businesses in each city’s downtown districts.
Each of the nationally accredited Main Street programs reallocated money from their own operating budgets to establish the relief fund. With their seed money of $9,000 private support quickly grew to almost $35,000 in just a few days. “We had overwhelming support from the larger businesses and financial institutions in our area,” says Melissa Lindley. “They could see the importance in helping the small, local business owners who make our communities great places to live and work.”
With the Maine Downtown Center, a program of the Maine Development Foundation, acting as fiscal sponsor, the KVDRF awarded up to $3,000 for business-related expenses including payroll, utilities, rent, mortgage payments, insurance, and products directly used in production of a product for sale. The fund closed in June 2020 after awarding a total of $48,370 to 21 businesses in the downtowns of Gardiner and Augusta. These businesses combined served almost 4,500 customers in a typical week, represented 100 employees and had been in business for an average of 6 years.
Anne Ball, Program Director, of MDF’s Maine Downtown Center, stated, “It is incredible to see two small non-profit Main Street organizations, who work tirelessly to revitalize their downtowns, pool their resources and their fundraising to come together to help small downtown businesses. The Augusta Downtown Alliance and Gardiner Main Street should be commended along with the other sponsors of the KVDRF.”