Council approves resolution for micro-grants

Council approves resolution for micro-grants

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During their regular meeting Monday night, Chadron City Council approved Resolution No. 2020-26, to authorize use of LB840 Economic Development Funds for micro-grants for local businesses. The funds will help to keep local businesses up and running during the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Manager Greg Yanker explained he and Northwest Nebraska Development Corporation (NNDC) Executive Director Deb Cottier had discussed what opportunities were available to help businesses “weather some of this storm.” Through a committee discussion, it was found that the micro-grants would be easy to administer on the City side and get money into the hands of business owners in a timely manner.

It was the recommendation of the committee to use $30,000 of the LB840 Economic Development Funds for individual $1,000 micro-grants on a first come, first served basis. Further, it’s requested the money be used for operational costs rather than debt servicing.

Yanker noted there would be a notice of grant availability released, which would start the application period. It is the intent to issue this notice Tuesday, April 21. Grant applications will be date-stamped as they come in, and approved starting with the council’s May 4 meeting.

Concerns were raised as to how checks will be done to ensure the funds are being utilized as they should. Yanker said there would be an honor system, and pointed out $1,000 does go a long way but typically doesn’t cover the full monthly operating costs of a business.

Cottier noted the cap of $30,000 would be something to start with, to give people incentive to apply for the micro-grants.

Also at the meeting, Cottier reported most of the time in the past two weeks has been spent trying to assist businesses in the community.

“We have many, many businesses who are in a very fragile status right now,” Cottier said. “A great deal of our hospitality businesses will have a tough year.” She added Northwest Nebraska Development Corporation is doing what it can to assist them and provide them with resources.

“We need to continue to do what we can to help our businesses,” Cottier said. “If they are not successful in weathering this pandemic, there will really be very little left of the business community to be able to support government in general.” She also has received encouraging compliments and comments from people who are appreciative of everything being done to help the businesses.

Cottier also spoke to the recent nearly $10,000 grant awarded by the Dawes County Travel Board. This money will go to the installation of a drinking fountain and water bottle filling stations at the plaza. An 8’ by 12’ shed will also be installed on the plaza to provide to provide a safe, lockable storage facility. Thirdly, a free-standing information kiosk will be installed.

Cottier said the city will also be able to install the shade sails, purchased through another grant, in the coming weeks. It’s hoped the plaza upgrades, as well as some additional seating, are set up this summer.

The board of directors for NNDC has given Cottier the “go ahead” to pursue a matching gift card program. She explained this is an incentive for the public to purchase gift cards, which are then matched dollar for dollar in a grant to the business. For example, if a customer buys a $25 gift card at a business, the proprietor can bring the card to Cottier’s office and receive a check for $25.

Cottier is looking at doing an application throught the community foundation or betterment fund, to match the dollars the customers are paying for gift cards, to further help businesses.

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