Cornwall approves small business emergency loan program

Cornwall City Council holds a meeting on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. City council has approved a small business loan program to help local businesses through the coronavirus pandemic. (City of Cornwall/YouTube via Newswatch Group)

CORNWALL – City council has approved a small business emergency loan program with an aim to help approximately 100 establishments.

The $500,000 fund would see $400,000 repayable by small businesses with the other $100,000 forgivable.

Planning General Manager Mark Boileau told council Wednesday, the forgivable portion would be approved based on businesses repaying four-fifths of their loan by Dec. 31, 2022. Businesses would receive up to $5,000 each, interest-free.

Those who don’t pay it back on time, what’s left owing would be converted into a three-year loan with a five per cent interest rate.

For its forgivable portion, the city plans to budget $50,000 a year over two budget years.

Boileau says there’s a “small window” for the program with applications taken over the next two weeks, closing May 15. The applications would be managed in-house and be reviewed by three city staffers. Application forms will be posted on the city’s website within the next day.

It will be open to for-profit companies with fewer than 25 employees in the City of Cornwall who can demonstrate that they have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We think it will be helpful,” Boileau said. Both the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce and Cornwall and the Counties Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) were “very supportive” of the program, he said.

“Time is of the essence here,” Coun. Claude McIntosh said. “Small businesses are hurting and if some of them start up again, it’s going to be a tough go.”

A number of councillors said they had confidence in city staff running the program but Coun. Eric Bergeron said he would have liked to have a one or two councillors as part of the review of applications. Bergeron’s argument was that the city was giving out a large amount of money with no council oversight or review. His push to have councillors on the review group didn’t pass.

With an initial limit of 100 businesses, CAO Maureen Adams explained the program won’t be first-come first-served, but all applications will be evaluated based on how severely they were affected by COVID-19.

The loan program will be funded from the brownfield reserve under the Community Improvement Program (CIP) and won’t directly cost taxpayers.

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