Gov. Dannel Malloy announced a $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant to the town of Newtown to assist local businesses that suffered economic losses in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month.
Malloy said several businesses were adversely impacted due to weeks of road closures and having entrances blocked by excessive traffic and parking.
One of the businesses affected by the Newtown school shooting was Villa Restaurant, which is about a half mile away from Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"We never thought this would happen, the safest town," said restaurant owner Vito Kala. "I don't know what to say, just that evil happened."
On Dec. 14, Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed his mother while she slept at her home before he went to Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and six adults. He killed himself as police made their way into the building.
Kala said his business had to shut down for a time because the road was closed for two weeks.
"We were closed the whole entire time," he said. "No business at all."
The town officials said some of its small shops such as The Toy Tree were hit hard because customers could not access parking lots that were packed with visitors, including journalists from all over the world.
The funding, Malloy said, will be distributed by Newtown officials and can be given out town wide and not just in the Sandy Hook section of town.
"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with everyone that was affected by the horrible events at Sandy Hook Elementary School," Malloy said in a news release. "Even as we work toward broader reforms to better protect our communities, these STEAP funds will have an immediate impact on the regional economy and protect area jobs."
A meeting will be held later this week to determine how the funding will be divided.
All Newtown businesses are being asked to contact the Economic Development Commission to file a request for assistance and should directly email firstname.lastname@example.org.
State legislators such as Sen. John McKinney praised the grant.
"In the midst of unimaginable shock and grief, the global response to the Newtown tragedy has been inspiring," he said. "This grant will help Newtown's local businesses and the people they employ weather the economic toll this tragedy has taken on their community."
State Rep. Christopher Lyddy said he was grateful to Malloy for the money.
"The tragedy in Newtown has permeated all aspects of our community. In addition to the obvious course we must take to begin our healing, we must not forget about the local businesses that have been adversely affected by this situation," Lyddy said. "This $500,000 grant reinforces that we value our local businesses and appreciate the contributions they make to our town. I am grateful to Governor Malloy and his administration for their quick action in supporting our efforts."
Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra agreed.
"The town of Newtown is very grateful to our state government, the governor and the Office of Policy and Management for taking quick action to assist us in support of our Sandy Hook businesses," she said. "In the aftermath of the shootings, our businesses were essentially shut down by the volume of traffic and media preventing customers from getting to stores, services, and restaurants during the busiest shopping days of the year. On behalf of the town, we are appreciative of this extraordinary kindness and appreciation for our difficulties."
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