Atlanta water crisis: City Council approves small business relief plan

The Atlanta City Council voted on Monday to approve a $7.5 million water relief fund plan aimed at helping small businesses still reeling from the effects of the recent outages. The newly approved plan offers $2.5 million more than Mayor Andre Dickens was calling for to help struggling businesses.

The water may be back on, but the impact of the two major water main breaks that began on May 31 is far from over.

"It had to have been thousands and thousands, probably in excess of 100,000 gallons of water...just destroyed the place," said business owner Mike Taylor. 

The Eleventh Street Pub has still not reopened after three long weeks. The owner tells FOX 5 the water damage to floors and walls was more extensive than originally thought. 

"We are still trying to assess the damage. We have a team coming out to see how much moisture is in the place. We have to do mold remediations. We don't know. We have no idea when we will be able to reopen," the pub owner said.  

The two major water main breaks in Midtown and Vine City caused many to lose water for days, including small businesses. Some had to temporarily close their doors or adjust how they did business.

"I would say I lost close to about $3,000. I'm a small businessman already hanging on a vine right now," Lance Robertson, co-owner of SBD+, told FOX 5 Atlanta earlier this month.

RELATED NEWS: How much money did the Atlanta water crisis cost local businesses?

After workers finished repairs on the ruptured water main, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens made a surprise visit to a City Council meeting to announce the creation of a $5 million relief fund for businesses

Mayor Andre Dickens at the City Council meeting

"This ordinance will allow us to provide some support to institute a program at Invest Atlanta to provide support to Atlanta small businesses that have been adversely affected by this weekend’s events regarding the disruption in water service. We want to help them regain their footing," Dickens said.

While it will help, experts said it likely wouldn't cover all the losses for small businesses.

"They may be covered cents on the dollar, maybe 25 cents or maybe 10 cents on the dollar. Certainly helpful, but it probably is not going to cover everything. But then again, it would be very difficult, I think, for the city to come up with funds to cover everybody's potential losses," Emory University finance professor Tom Smith explained.

MORE: Will the Atlanta water crisis affect your next bill?

The additional money is expected to help cover lost wages for the employees of those impacted local businesses.

"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," said Mayor Dickens. "Thank you to Councilmember Westmoreland and the entire City Council, Invest Atlanta, Chief Policy Officer and Senior Advisor Courtney English, members of my Cabinet and everyone who helped set up the Atlanta Recovery Fund."

Applications for business owners will go live here on Monday, June 24, and close on July 8. Any funds not distributed by June 30, 2025, will revert to the Water and Wastewater Revenue Fund.

Business owners will have to show that their establishment was affected during the five-day crisis. 

The city is still working on providing direct support to impacted residents. FOX 5 Atlanta will report on any developments.

Efforts to improve Atlanta's water system

With the city's gaining infrastructure, there are concerns another water main break may happen again.

To try and prevent another event, the city will begin installing devices at valves that can electronically detect and report leaks, Department of Watershed Management Commissioner Al Wiggins Jr. said. He said the pilot program was already planned before the leaks. Wiggins also said the city will step up inspections and seek to repair some other valves that aren’t working correctly.

Dickens said that would be part of a broader effort to examine the city’s water system, including assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a panel he announced to be headed by former Mayor Shirley Franklin and Metro Atlanta Chamber CEO Katie Kirkpatrick. He said he would also consider reordering the city’s capital improvement plans to prioritize water system upgrades.

RELATED NEWS: Atlanta water crisis: Where was Mayor Andre Dickens?

The mayor said he would seek more federal funding, but warned the work could be very costly.

"I want us to be the example of solving it — all of it. And that’s going to be a number that’s in the B — billions. It’s not going to be a small number," Dickens said. "But I think that that will give our residents more confidence."

Atlanta voters have supported improvements. Last month, they approved continuing a 1-cent sales tax to pay for water and sewer improvements.

FOX 5's Kim Leoffler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.