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New council to tackle COVID relief program

·3 min read

Council discussed potential changes to the COVID-19 Resiliency Support Program, but ultimately decided to wait until November and allow the newly elected group of councilors to review the program.

Council previously approved a way to promote business retention and recovery by providing $750 to local eligible businesses. The Town of Hinton Small Business Grant Program is administered by Community Futures West Yellowhead (CFWY) on behalf of the Town of Hinton.

As of Sept. 13, Community Futures West Yellowhead approved seven grant applications and are processing one more grant application for a total of $5,252.

The remaining funds available once the eight grants have been finalized is $94,750.

Applicants represent the Retail, Accommodation and Food Services, and Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services sectors.

Administration and CFWY reviewed options to improve and further promote the grant uptake. They suggested increasing the $750 grant amount to a maximum of up to $1500 based on the eligibility and expenses named in the program and removing the requirement of two employees as a prerequisite.

“The recommendations are there to open up the application process to as many businesses as possible, to increase the threshold, so more businesses have an opportunity to access the funding and have that to maintain their business and sustain through these tough times,” said Scott Kovatch, Hinton’s economic development officer.

Kovatch explained that removing the requirement of two or more employees would mean that any business could apply for the grant, including any single-person home based business or a storefront business with multiple employees.

Coun. Ryan Maguhn noted that before making any decision, the administration should look for some feedback from the Chamber of Commerce. Even if it is not within the span of this council, having the feedback from the Town’s partners for the next council would be beneficial, he added.

Coun. Dewly Nelson noted that unless the dollar amount increased significantly he doesn’t expect a huge increase in uptake, even if the grant is increased to $1,500. Between now and when the next budget is developed there may be more businesses that apply, possibly leaving the funds at around $90,000. In that case, he would like to see the next council have an opportunity to create an economic development program that could impact all businesses instead of targeted grants for individual businesses.

Coun. Tyler Waugh agreed that this is not the time to send administration back to change criteria within the program.

“Some feedback I have heard from businesses that had applied or considered applying, is that the amount of work involved may not be worth it for $750. Maybe if we double it we would spur a little bit more interest,” Waugh said.

Kovatch stated that increasing the amount to $1,500 would impact the program and there would be an increase in the uptake. He added that making changes to the program would mean additional costs associated with changing the software and application being used, which is why the two recommendations were suggested together to save costs.

The program will return to council for review prior to Nov. 15, 2021.

“It’s best to simply accept this for information and let a future council tackle this,” said Coun. Ryan Maguhn.

Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice

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