Minneapolis businesses struggling to survive inside the area known as George Floyd Square could soon get monetary help from the city.

The Business, Inspections, Housing and Zoning Committee has unanimously approved $50,000 interest-free, forgivable loans for small businesses and nonprofits behind the barricades surrounding the makeshift memorial where George Floyd struggled under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

Borrowers would not have to repay the loans if their business or organization stays open for one year.

The loan program would repurpose half of the city's budgeted small-business loan pool, or about $1 million.

The proposal is headed to next week's City Council meeting for a final vote.

"The businesses and organizations located in the immediate area of 38th and Chicago have experienced an exceptional economic burden, as the location of Mr. George Floyd's death and the subsequent closing of the intersection to regular vehicle traffic," said Erik Hansen, the city's director of economic policy and development. "Existing city programs are inadequate to address the losses."

The barricaded area, stretching from 37th to 39th streets and Elliot and Columbus avenues, is under occupation by protesters who have given the city 24 demands for relinquishing the street.

Black business owners inside the zone have organized to complain that they don't agree with the barricades, which they claim encumber delivery drivers and provide a cover for crime.

When 30-year-old Imez Wright was killed at 38th and Chicago on March 6, businesses and residents reported hearing gunshots for days afterward. Protesters occupying the square ordered it closed for mourning throughout the start of jury selection in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin.

Just Turkey owner Sam Willis Jr. and other business owners in the square have been meeting with city officials to come up with some form of economic assistance to offset the impact of street closures.

"We talked about it [Tuesday], and I thought it was a great idea," Willis said of the forgivable loans.

Police respond to 911 calls from the square and recently pursued shooting suspects into the intersection. Yet protesters do not welcome police and complain they desecrate Floyd's memorial with their presence.

The Powderhorn Park and Corcoran neighborhood organizations released a joint statement last month saying they "do not believe that the rise in violent crimes in our community is a result of the 38th and Chicago intersection being closed." They thanked protesters for taking care of the Floyd memorial, which has drawn visitors from around the world.

City Council Member Alondra Cano said the forgivable loans for 38th and Chicago were prompted by the gun violence that occurred this month.

"There's no interest, there's no down payment, there's no red tape," she said. "I think everybody acknowledges … it's not going to be sustainable to ask people to pay money back."

The city's Community Planning and Economic Development Department would service the loan program. Staff are developing an application process. If approved, money would be available for borrowers in about six weeks.

Susan Du • 612-673-4028