Wellington County approves $1-million fund to assist local businesses impacted by COVID-19 pandemic

WELLINGTON COUNTY – County council has approved a $1-million fund to help local small businesses survive and recover from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a special meeting held by teleconference on March 31, council authorized execution of an agreement with the Wellington-Waterloo Community Futures Development Corporation and the Saugeen Economic Development Corporation to facilitate the new Keep Well – Emergency Business Sustainability Fund.

The resolution indicates funds for the program will come from the county’s corporate contingency reserve and be administrated by the two development corporations serving the county

A staff report from treasurer Ken DeHart notes the corporations have designed a funding program based on their existing loan process.

The Keep Well – Emergency Business Sustainability Fund will provide low-interest loans to support cash flow and working capital with no principal or interest payments for the first six months of the loan.

The development corporations  will also provide expertise in business planning, counselling services and skills training “to ensure the success of each beneficiary,” the report notes.

The fund is designed to provide low-interest loans of up to $25,000 at a three per cent interest rate to facilitate cash flow and working capital for Wellington County businesses struggling during the pandemic.

Funds will normally be made available within three days for successful applicants.

“We are anticipating that this money can be out to Wellington County businesses as quickly as next week,” DeHart told council.

Loans will be repaid over five years with flexible repayment terms and no prepayment penalties.

A resolution to investigate the concept was approved unanimously at a meeting of Wellington County council held by teleconference on March 26.

During that meeting, councillor Chris White, who chairs the county’s administration finance and human resources committee, said the economic fallout from COVID-19 would have a devastating impact on Wellington County businesses.

“When we come out of this, what’s going to happen is a lot of these businesses, frankly, will be gone … and if you look at the commercial taxes and the jobs lost and all of the impacts of having these downtown businesses disappear, it’s going to be very harsh,” he stated at the time.

“We understand that businesses are struggling right now,” said White, following the approval of the new fund on March 31. “These loans will provide some immediate relief in the face of these uncertain economic circumstances.”

In a March 31 press release, Warden Kelly Linton stated, “Local businesses are the pillar of our community.

“Businesses need financial resources now. Through this partnership between the county and the [development corporations] we are able to help keep businesses going during this very challenging time.”

Councillor George Bridge, county economic development chair, said, “Our local businesses are facing unprecedented challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread.

“The Keep Well – Emergency Business Sustainability Fund will be able to provide immediate support to our businesses community.”

To learn more about this initiative, or apply for funds contact:

-Wellington-Waterloo Community Futures (for businesses located in Centre Wellington, Erin, Guelph-Eramosa, Mapleton and Puslinch), Rick Whittaker, General Manager, rick@wwcf.ca or visit www.wwcf.ca; or

-Saugeen Economic Development Corporation (for businesses located in the Town of Minto or Wellington North), Rose Austin, General Manager, 519-799-5750 x 1 or rose@sbdc.ca.