Saturday, March 6, 2021

Council approves $200,000 small business recovery grant program

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is moving forward with a $200,000 COVID-19 small business recovery grant program.

After a lengthy debate and several deputations at Monday night’s electronic meeting, Council gave the green light for the new program.

However, the recommendations made by staff were adjusted throughout the meeting.

Council approved the $200,000 to come from the Together CK: CK Plan 2035 Community Projects budget.

Administration will report back to Council the list of grant recipients at the end of the program, which is being developed by community development and financial services staff.

Chatham Councillor Brock McGregor, who is also the budget committee chair, amended the original recommendation from staff to direct administration to prepare the 2021 draft budget with a target increase of inflation, along with the additional annual asset management plan increase.

McGregor’s amendment also directed administration to provide further options to reduce the 2021 budget impact to zero per cent.

“Options for zero per cent requiring significant changes to infrastructure, facilities, or services require administration to provide an interim report by October 19, 2020,” McGregor said in his motion, adding this would be consistent with the adoption of the CK Recovery Task Force recommendations by council.

West Kent Councillor Melissa Harrigan amended the original recommendation for $50,000 to remain in the budget for the Together CK committee to distribute funds based on COVID-19 friendly or socially distant events.

Mayor Darrin Canniff added a further amendment, directing administration to report back to council regarding the volume of applications to the small business recovery grant program, and that the program be revisited if any senior government funding becomes available or other sources of funding are identified.

In the non-agenda business portion of the meeting, Chatham Councillor Karen Kirkwood-Whyte successfully added a further amendment on the item.

“At the request of the co-chairs of the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Task Force, the amount of the small business recovery grant be increased from $1,000 to ‘up to’ $5,000 per eligible applicant,” Kirkwood-Whyte said in her motion.

A report by Gord Quinton, chief financial officer and treasurer for Chatham-Kent, says as per the Economic Recovery Task Force comments, this economic crisis presents an opportunity to make changes.

“Administration agrees that we do not need to return to normal pre-Covid-19 operations,” Quinton said in his report.

“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. Work on the 2021 Budget has begun and guidance on permanent service reductions would be helpful in advance.”

More details will be made available as the program starts being rolled out.

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