The Town of Hinton and Community Futures West Yellowhead (CFWY) are partnering up to provide the COVID-19 Business Resilience Support Program for a local business goods and services program.
The portal is not yet open for application, but CFWY is working on that internally, said Nancy Robbins, CFWY general manager.
This program is funded by $100,000 through the Emergency Operations Reserve, originally from the Municipal Operating Support Transfer (MOST) grant.
Eligible local businesses could receive up to $750 for approved goods and services specific to their needs.
“[CFWY] has taken on a lot the last little while, I’ve been so impressed with the level of work they’ve been able to churn through that office. I think it’s going to be a great partner to carry this out,” said Coun. Dewly Nelson during the May 4 regular council meeting.
Coun. Albert Ostashek pointed out the great partnership example between the Town of Hinton administration and a local community organization generating mutual benefit.
CFWY has administered grants on behalf of other local municipalities and the Federal Government throughout the pandemic, and they reached out to provide an overview of the administrative support they can provide to the Town’s program.
Applicants will apply through the CFWY loan portal with submissions processed in the order they are received.
The application process requires financial statements, information on CRA debts, insolvency or bankruptcy and businesses must have less than $5 million in gross annual revenue.
Hinton’s economic development officer, Scott Kovatch, stated that there is an opportunity to review the program depending on uptake of the business community.
There could be a second intake with new parameters depending on how the first intake goes, he added.
Current ineligible expenses through the program include salaries, rent, leasehold improvements or commercial mortgage payments, expenses covered by other Federal programs related to COVID-19, and expenses covered under Government of Alberta COVID-19 grant programs.
Council directed administration to bring back a report prior to June 22 on available options to provide rent support for non-government tenants of town properties.
Coun. JoAnn Race pointed out that a letter from the Share Shop was sent to the Town of Hinton in February requesting support with rent and they had not yet been given a response.
The Community Grant Program is open to applications for operations of local groups, which in the case of the Share Shop could be used towards rent, said Coun. Trevor Haas.
Administration already met to talk about the Town’s tenants and gathered a list of all the agreements that may be impacted by the pandemic.
While Council wanted to look at supporting each of their tenants and recognized that for-profit tenants also face financial impacts, they did not want to include governmental tenants.
“My intent was not to have organizations that have the ability to collect revenue through taxation to be considered for rent relief, but I do have a bit of concern to limiting it to only nonprofits. There are quite a few for-profit organizations that provide valuable services to the community that do it while they rent town-owned facilities, and a lot of them have been severely impacted by COVID-19. It’s not just the non-profits that are impacted by this, but for profits as well. A lot of them have had drastic drastic revenue reductions,” said Coun. Albert Ostashek.
These tenants include several private businesses, as well as a day care in the recreation centre and organizations in the community centre.
There are at least ten tenants, said Laura Howarth, director of community services who stepped in as acting CAO at the May 4 regular council meeting.
Council will decide at a future meeting whether to put $30,000 towards a collaborative marketing plan to promote businesses working in partnership of three or more.
This was an item presented to council at a previous meeting, and Coun. Ryan Maguhn felt many businesses would benefit from the initiative. Each business involved in the partnership would receive up to $500, providing a minimum of $1,500 towards marketing activities. This program would reach a maximum of $5,000 or 10 businesses.
Kovatch added that administration reached out to 15 communities across the province who said marketing support was in their top five issues that would help them through the pandemic.
Local businesses understand that tourism is important to the economy and saw it as a priority as well, he said.
A lot of sales are being done through social media content and development online, he added, and support in this area can make a big impact.
Nelson did not feel comfortable making a decision on this initiative without further feedback, while Coun. Tyler Waugh voiced concern over money leaving the community instead of prioritizing local services and organizations.
Funds currently available in the Emergency Operations reserve come to approximately $169,060.
Additional funds from the subsequent surplus determined through 2020 year-end financials can be moved into this reserve at a later date to support local business programs or resident support initiatives.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice