Metro Council approved $500,000 in rent relief to vendors at the Nashville Farmers Market, despite reservations from several council members.
The bill was previously deferred due to conflicts with U.S. Treasury guidelines, which would have considered the funds as unlawful revenue replacement, according to Councilmember Sandra Sepulveda, one of three sponsors. Council made the decision to provide relief through Pathway Lending, distributor of the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
“The farmers market is a staple in the Nashville community just like the music venues that we’ve supported,” said Councilmember Jennifer Gamble.
Advocates for the bill said the resolution was an opportunity to recoup financial losses resulting from the pandemic and could be used to provide aid to other institutions.
“We are in a budget crunch. The Nashville Farmers Market is helping our city and I think it’s important that we support this staple in our city,” said Sepulveda.
Other council members questioned the need for rent relief and whether Metro had the ability to waive fees on metro-owned property rather than prioritizing other institutions.
“Those vendors have the luxury to have Metro as a landlord, and other small businesses do not have that luxury, so I think we could have used that money for other purposes,” said Councilmember Erin Evans, District 12.
“This does seem like we couldn’t put the money in the general fund through the front door, so we found a way to get through the back door that needs to go to other entities that need it,” added District 13 Councilmember Russ Bradford.
Despite reports of minority-owned businesses not receiving financial relief, Gamble assured the council that out of 300 businesses, 51% were minority owned businesses and have received grant funding through the CARES Act.
“We have already exceeded the 30% set aside that we have for minority businesses,” said Gamble.
“I’m not sure why some businesses are saying that they’re not getting support,” she said, adding that about 16% of famers market vendors are minority owned.
The resolution was approved 25-8.