By: Mike Anderson

On April 22, Georgina Council unanimously approved an emergency grant program for local businesses struggling to stay a float during the COVID-19 crisis.

The program, called the Georgina Emergency Relief Benefit (GERB), will provide a maximum of $7,500 in grants to eligible business in monthly instalments of $2,500.

The program will be administered by the South Lake Community Futures Development Corporation (SLCFDC), a not-for-profit organization based in Keswick, but funded by the Town to the tune of $250,000.

South Lake Futures hopes to launch the program as early as next week, and applications can be obtained by contacting South Lake Futures directly.

The goal is to help local business pay their rent and utilities, as many are shuttered by the provincial emergency orders and have no revenue coming in.

“We understand the closures of non essential businesses are creating extreme hardships,” said Karyn Stone, Manager of Economic Development and Tourism, who is a key member of the Town’s task force, that’s looking into ways to help the community get through the pandemic.

“We’ve been looking at a number of options and this is just one of the options; to provide a grant program or emergency relief benefit to those that are most in need.”

Ms. Stone said the Town’s response is based on what other municipalities are doing, including Bradford West Gwillimbury and the County of Wellington, which have worked with a similar community futures program to provide grants to their local businesses.

According to Ms. Stone, local businesses will be eligible for the grant if they are a registered business and can provide financials, including tax returns, that demonstrate a 30 per cent loss of revenue during the pandemic.

While most of the councillors seemed to support the initiative, Regional Councillor Rob Grossi provided the lone dissenting opinion.

He said that local businesses can already access a series of support programs offered by the federal government.

He also said that it might “open the floodgates” by encouraging residents to ask the Town to help them pay rent during the crisis.

At one point, Mr Grossi proposed a motion to delay a vote on the report.

But, his motion was not supported, as most of the councillors acknowledged that something had to be done quickly to deal with the severity of the situation facing local businesses.

“I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it provides some funding to those businesses that maybe fall through the cracks with regards to federal programs,” said Ward 4 Councillor Frank Sebo, who’s own business in Sutton has been impacted.

“Times are really tough right now. My store, for instance, has been closed since the second week of March. So, in terms of revenue, there hasn’t been any, but there’s still still bills to pay.”

To obtain an application for the Georgina Emergency Relief Benefit, please email Amir Doo, Community Economic Development Officer, at adoo@southlakefutures.ca

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