CK COVID-19 small business grant up for discussion

Chatham-Kent is looking at the possibility of throwing a financial lifeline to businesses struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During Monday night’s meeting, council will discuss developing a $250,000 COVID-19 Chatham-Kent Small Business Recovery Grant Program.

The idea of the program stems from recommendations made by the Chatham-Kent Economic Recovery Task Force.

If approved, the grant would be intended to provide immediate funds to small businesses to help them be better able to adapt to the COVID-19 business environment.

The main criteria would be as follows:

-Small privately held businesses, stores or restaurants
-Not publically traded or corporately owned chain stores / franchises
-Principal owner(s) are residents of Chatham-Kent
-Annual sales up to $5M
-“Needs” based assessment of losses
-Intent to re-open the business or the business is already open
-Limit of $1,000 per applicant

A total of $200,000 would be redirected from the Together CK: CK Plan 2035 Community Projects budget towards the grant program with the remaining $50,000 coming from the Together CK: Events budget.

During the May 25 meeting, council approved a motion to receive the task force’s final report and approved six recommendations including that “staff consult with the Economic Recovery Task Force and report back to council with program criteria and recommendations, and options for 2020 service level adjustments for funding sources, for the up to 2 million dollars requested for immediate relief strategies outlined by the task force.”

According to the recent staff report, further reductions in 2020 service levels would be needed to provide a larger recovery grant fund. Rather than focusing on short term reductions, while already addressing a potential 2020 operating deficit of $2 million to $5 million, administration is also requesting that council provide direction on permanent operating savings that will lower the financial burden to all taxpayers.

“As per the Task Force comments, this economic crisis presents an opportunity to make changes,” stated the staff report. “Administration agrees that we do not need to return to normal pre-COVID-19 operations. It is suggested that council weigh whether short term cuts are desired or whether it may be more advantageous of looking for permanent savings lowering the need for a 2021 budget increase.”

According to the staff report, Chatham-Kent’s Economic Development Team has been fielding hundreds of phone calls throughout the pandemic from business owners across the municipality.