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The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) distributed $66,310 to four small business owners that have been affected by various rail expansion projects, the agency announced yesterday. LACMTA distributed the money as part of its new Business Interruption Fund (BIF) pilot program, for which the agency is allowed to set aside up to $10 million annually, LACMTA officials said in a press release. Individual businesses may receive up to $50,000 annually from the fund. "We're making much needed investments to our public transportation system in Los Angeles, but construction cannot come at the expense of our businesses," said Los Angeles Mayor and LACMTA Chairman Eric Garcetti. "The Business Interruption Fund will help ensure that businesses impacted by construction are able to thrive despite any temporary inconveniences to customers and employees."Administered in partnership with the Pacific Coast Small Business Development Corporation, the BIF is now being used at three areas near the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, the Little Tokyo area of the Regional Connector Transit Project and segment one of the Purple Line Extension. Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, who serves on LACMTA's board, noted that businesses that receive money from the BIF will be responsible for providing careful documentation of their losses and viability.LACMTA wants to ensure that merchants "will survive so that when the new Metro Rail projects open, they will be able to enjoy the economic benefits that projects of this magnetite will bring to the Los Angeles region," Dupont-Walker said.To qualify for financial assistance, businesses must have at least two years of continuous operating history, employ 25 or fewer people, and be in good standing with taxing and licensing authorities.Meanwhile, the California Department of Transportation late last month approved providing $75.3 million to LACMTA for the acquisition of 117 light-rail vehicles. The funding was part of a $325.8 million package set aside for various transportation improvements in the state.