Newtown's Board of Selectmen graciously -- and speedily -- accepted a $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant from the state of Connecticut at their meeting Tuesday night. The grant will benefit both individual businesses in Sandy Hook and, hopefully, more general projects in the neighborhood itself, according to officials.
To date, 15 Sandy Hook businesses have applied for the grant, said Donald Sharpe of Newtown's Economic Development Commission, who testified at the Board of Selectmen meeting. Businesses have until February 15 to apply to receive a portion of the funds. Economic Development Commission members will begin reviewing applications at their meeting Wednesday night, Sharpe said.
"We hope to do this in an expeditious fashion," he said. "I think [businesses] feel well-informed and certainly ready to apply as necessary. Not all of those businesses will apply; some said they had no losses." Sharpe said the Sandy Hook Diner, for instance, was one of these.
Earlier this month, Gov. Dannel Malloy approved the grant for the small businesses of Sandy Hook. The grant is one piece of aid to help businesses in the neighborhood get back on their feet after the December 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School shook the neighborhood -- and the resulting traffic from press, well-wishers and onlookers caused traffic and parking clogs in the neighborhood.
"Since the tragedy, Sandy Hook had way too much traffic in the beginning," Newtown Economic Development Coordinator Betsy Paynter told Patch. "All of the sudden, there was no traffic."
At the meeting, First Selectman Pat Llodra thanked Gov. Malloy and Connecticut's Office of Policy Management for quick action.
"When I had initial conversations with the governors's office and the Office of Policy Management, they both said 'Ask for the maximum. We're prepared to give the town the maximum,' Llodra said. She said she got word within "a matter of days" that the grant would come through.
"They heard the message and responded," she said. "It's impressive on many levels."
Selectmen approved the grant unanimously.
While small businesses wait to receive funds, residents can help out by participating in a Sandy Hook cash mob this weekend sponsored by Economic Development, the Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity and We Are Newtown.