Worth It or Wasted: $1.4 million for small business renovations

The City of Orlando is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to help small businesses.

Each year, $300,000 is set aside for the city's small business facade and site improvement assistance program. The City Beautiful has spent $1.4 million to date, since the program was launched in 2013.

"It's a way to reactivate those spaces, bring more life to the community and provide a sense of place for our residents and give them more options in their communities to shop, dine and spend time," said Kim King-Maysonet, City of Orlando Assistant Manager of Business Development.

The city offering to reimburse small businesses up to $50,000 or half the cost of renovation on the exterior or interior of the business. One of the businesses that benefited from the program is Stasio's Italian Deli and Market in the Milk District.

"it's been amazing, it's been a big help," said Maria Palo, owner of Stasio's.

Palo, an  immigrant from Italy, spent $25,000 for new windows and signage for the deli and was reimbursed for half of the cost. Palo said she never thought a city would offer money to help with her family business.

"I feel great, I said ‘oh, they're helping me,' just to be here and do something for the community, I was very touched by that," said Palo.

But the program is taxpayer funded and the money could be used elsewhere. So, is it worth it? The city says small businesses are the backbone of the economy.

"Absolutely, we are helping to create jobs for our residents, we are helping business owners to make it a little easier for them to get up and running and open, and we are adding to the quality of life in our communities," said King-Maysonet.

More than 100 small businesses have been assisted in the program's 13 years, according to the city.