CM Allen on Bills to Support DC's Small and Local Businesses

The following statement is from Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen ahead of today’s public hearing to consider multiple pieces of legislation aimed supporting small and local businesses in the District. 

Two bills were introduced by Councilmember Allen earlier this year:

Longtime Resident Business Preservation Act of 2019
Small and Local Business Assistance Act of 2019

“It’s time to level the playing field for our small and local businesses by making them more competitive for lease agreements over national brands and supporting longtime business that are neighborhood staples in a changing DC,” said Councilmember Allen. “Our favorite businesses are part of what make our neighborhoods special. But we need to recognize the headwinds small business owners face and take action to make it easier for them to do business in the District.”

Councilmember Allen continued: “I included a provision that would offer low-interest loans to longtime resident businesses, tied to the interest rate that the District offers for general obligation bonds. That rate is the result of hard work and the District’s economic turnaround—the same turnaround that some see as making it harder for longtime businesses to afford to stay here. We’ve talked a lot about the District’s great financial standing. Let’s put it to work for our small, local businesses.”

Background on the bills:

Small and Local Business Assistance Amendment Act of 2019

The first bill aims to ease the burden of rising property taxes that small business owners report as one of the most significant rising costs to doing business in the District of Columbia. First, it creates a tax credit of 20 percent (capped at $10,000 annually) for rent paid or property taxes paid by a small, local business – which closely follows the Schedule H tax deduction for residential tenants by allowing tax relief based on the amount of a tenant’s rent that go toward paying the landlord’s property taxes. This will provide relief to local businesses who are feeling the pinch when rising property taxes are passed on from the landlord to their small business tenant.

Second, it would provide property tax relief to landlords who choose to rent all or a portion of their space to small, local businesses rather than a national chain – those properties would receive a 10% relief off of the total value of the property, capped at $100,000.

Finally, it would create a Small and Local Business Credit Enhancement Program within the Department of Small and Local Business Development to provide credit enhancement services for small and local businesses. The bill specifies one program in the bill – a rent guarantee for up to three years that will provide incentive for developers to lease their space to small and local businesses. The rent guarantees would be 100% in year one, 50% in year two, and 25% year three.

“Right now, many developers find it much easier to secure financing for a project if they sign leases with national tenants – even if they’d rather work with a small and local business. I want to change their calculation so that DC’s entrepreneurs and small business owners are the best option,” said Councilmember Allen.

The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers McDuffie, Todd, Trayon White, Robert White, Nadeau, and Evans. It was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Silverman and Grosso.


Longtime Resident Business Preservation Amendment Act of 2019

This bill would provide assistance for “longtime resident businesses” that have been operating in the District for at least 20 years or 15 years in the case of smaller businesses.

Businesses would have to show their continuous operation and support from the community it has served. Businesses that meet the criteria would be placed on a registry and be eligible for:

  • grants up to $1.5 million or low-interest loans up to $2 million for repair or replacement of historic signs and facades or heavy equipment, other capital improvements, and operating costs and approved by DSLBD;
  • rent stabilization payments of up to 10 percent of the average commercial rent for the census tract, if the longtime business is at a substantial risk of displacement.

This was inspired by a legacy business program in San Francisco. The District started a similar grant program this year, but this legislation would greatly expand the eligible businesses and the benefits provided. It would create a fund to provide the capital for grants and loans.

The bill was co-introduced by Councilmembers McDuffie, Todd, Evans, Robert White, Nadeau, Trayon White, Bonds, and Cheh. The bill was co-sponsored Silverman and Grosso.

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