Help is on the way for Clovis business owners who have been sued over violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. On Monday night, the Clovis City Council approved a package of programs to help them meet state and federal regulations.
The program will allow the city to pay for seminars, inspections and matching loans to help business owners make necessary upgrades.
In the past six months, 45 lawsuits have been filed in federal court, many against Clovis businesses.
The city's plan allows locally owned businesses to qualify for financial assistance that will pay for inspectors to conduct ADA compliance audits at businesses. The city also will provide matching funds of up to $10,000 for businesses to make changes related to ADA violations.
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The city will provide up to $10,000 for inspections through a federal grant program and an additional $100,000 for the matching funds project through city redevelopment funds and federal grant money.
City officials expect to pay for about 20 business inspections, said Tina Sumner, the city's Community and Economic Development director.
Sumner said the lawsuits have come at a time when businesses are struggling. She said the programs will be part of the city's efforts to keep businesses profitable, and she expects high demand for the city's assistance.
Penalties from ADA lawsuits can be expensive, up to $4,000 per violation plus costs to make improvements to meet federal laws.
"We really think this three-pronged approach can give businesses information they need to make good, sound business decisions," Sumner said.
City Council Member Nathan Magsig asked whether the city could be liable if inspections are not done correctly.
But City Attorney David Wolfe told the council that the city is giving money for repairs, not doing the work.
The inspectors that the city plans to use are state-certified access specialists, whose job is to ensure that a business meets ADA regulations. Using a certified access specialist acts as an insurance policy, allowing a business owner 90 days to become ADA-compliant.
The program will begin after July 1.