City Council OKs $7.5M to help Atlanta businesses hurt by major water outage

The council increased the total funds after testimony from businesses
Manager Mitch Frohman carries ice at Steamhouse Lounge in Atlanta on Thursday, June 6, 2024. The restaurant just re-opened after being closed for five days following several water main breaks in the city. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)



Manager Mitch Frohman carries ice at Steamhouse Lounge in Atlanta on Thursday, June 6, 2024. The restaurant just re-opened after being closed for five days following several water main breaks in the city. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)

Thousands of small businesses who suffered financial losses during Atlanta’s water main crisis earlier this month will be able to apply for relief from the city by next week.

Atlanta City Council members unanimously passed legislation Monday that dedicates $7.5 million for Atlanta businesses impacted by the widespread water outages. The number was increased from an original $5 million proposal after concern that funds weren’t enough to help all the anticipated applicants.

The money will be dispersed through Invest Atlanta and intended for losses not covered by insurance. Businesses can begin applying on June 24.

The agency’s CEO and President Eloisa Klementich told council members last week that nearly 7,000 businesses were affected by the initial May 31 boil water advisory. The Midtown water break that followed left about 3,700 businesses still under the boil water advisory until June 6.

Those businesses range from restaurants and beauty salons to real estate offices and consulting firms. Johnny Martinez, owner of Joystick Gamebar on Edgewood Avenue, estimated his business lost anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000. The company that runs Ponce City Market’s popular rooftop food and attractions said it lost $200,000.

“Our administration knows there is a need for this assistance and together we have made sure that getting money in the hands of the impacted small businesses and their employees remains a priority,” Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement following the vote.

Thousands of businesses suffered financial losses during the six days that Atlanta residents were under a boil water advisory.

Credit: Courtesy of Invest Atlanta

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Credit: Courtesy of Invest Atlanta

Klementich said that if every impacted business applied for funding, the cost would be around $10 million. But Invest Atlanta estimated only about 40% of eligible businesses will apply.

Still, council moved forward with the increased amount. The relief money will come from the Department of Watershed Management’s budget and paid for by ratepayers.

“We expect a really strong response from small businesses and wanted to make sure that we had enough funds to cover what we anticipate will be a lot of interest,” said Council member Matt Westmoreland, who introduced the legislation.

Another amendment to the original legislation dictates that the fund will be closed out on June 30, 2025, with any remaining money transferred to the Water and Wastewater Revenue Fund.

Council member Marci Collier Overstreet questioned the jump, stating that council can revisit the legislation and add funds as needed.

“I just want to make sure that it’s justifiable,” she said.

Council member Alex Wan said that he would bet that the crisis-level event will push the application rate higher than 40%.

“Our water outages affected a wide swath of businesses,” Wan said. “I think our adoption rate on this one is going to be higher.”

“That was a really traumatic experience and whether your district was impacted or not, we need to think of the city as a whole,” he said.

A pedestrian walks by a water main break at Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and James P. Brawley Drive in Atlanta on May 31, 2024. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

The Invest Atlanta board plans to vote on the fund June 20. Applications will be taken for two weeks, from June 24 to July 8. The agency will notify businesses receiving grants the week of July 29.

Council member Antonio Lewis also raised concerns about extending the application period, citing the trouble the city had in getting out information on the water outages in the first place.

“That period is so short,” he said. “I am just thinking about all the businesses that need to get this.”

The District 12 council member also urged further action, by creating another similar program for Atlanta residents who suffered personal financial losses due to the main breaks.

“We’re taking care of the businesses in the city of Atlanta,” Lewis said. “We need to take care of the people.”

The amount of the grants will depend on revenue and how long the business was impacted.

To apply, businesses will need to provide a point-of-sale report from the week before the water main breaks and then another from the impacted week. They will also need to submit an impact statement, their business license, a copy of their insurance policy and other documentation.

Westmoreland said the city aims to get funds in the hands of small businesses during the month of July.

“Businesses have told us loud and clear that timing is important to them,” he said. “And the sooner we can get them dollars, the better.”

Staff reporter Mirtha Donastorg contributed to this report.

Important dates:

  • June 17: Invest Atlanta will lead an informational webinar at 5 p.m. where interested businesses can learn about eligibility requirements and the application process.
  • June 24: Applications open.
  • July 8: Applications close at 5 p.m.