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Competition tight for facade improvement money

WICHITA — More than 20 small businesses have applied for federal stimulus money that can pay for facade improvements, and more can apply through Jan. 15, the city announced today.

But the competition is tight.

The city has $200,000 to offer. It already has more than $1 million in requests.

It will be up to five city officials to evaluate the requests based on federal criteria, said Mary K. Vaughn, director of housing and community services.

"I'm encouraged that there are so many businesses applying," she said. "I'm discouraged we're not going to be able to help all of them."

Vaughn said the city still needs to refine additional ways to evaluate requests to narrow the list of recipients since there isn't enough money to pay for all the facade improvements.

To qualify, businesses must be in low- to moderate-income areas spread across most of central and southeast Wichita.

Maps of the area are at http://www.wichitagov.org/CityOffices/Urban/EconomicDevelopment/FIP/NeighborhoodFacadeProgram.htm.

Businesses also must be up to date on tax payments, have fewer than 20 employees and have been in business for at least one year at their current location.

The federal money doesn't have to be paid back unless the business fails, closes, relocates, sells or violates other parts of the program.

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