Relief funding available, details on town website
By Mark Reaman
The town of Crested Butte is setting aside $100,000 out of reserves to help local small businesses pay for some fixed costs during the COVID-19 crisis. Under the proposal, brick and mortar operations in town that had to close or severely curtail operations because of the public health orders issued by the county can apply for up to $2,500. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications with details of the plan are on the town’s website. The deadline to apply is Friday, May 8.
“The grant program is meant to help keep small businesses in a position to reopen as soon as the COVID-19 crisis passes,” reads a memo to the council from town finance director Rob Zillioux. “Small businesses are the cornerstone of Crested Butte’s economy.”
Town Council members Chris Haver and Candice Bradley recused themselves from the April 27 discussion because as small business owners they may qualify for the grants.
Within 24 hours of the special meeting 21 local businesses had applied and Zillioux had approved 12 of them. “Checks will be mailed this week or picked up at town hall Friday,” Zillioux said. “Three applications were declined because they did not meet the requirements. But universally, these business owners are super grateful.”
The money is supposed to be used for fixed costs such as rent, mortgage or insurance. Using it for wages and inventory are excluded. Zillioux said the grants would be a maximum of $2,500, and possibly less for specific uses. He predicted the town would receive about 70 applications. “My thought is that if we run through this $100,000 we would come back to the council for more discussion,” he said at the special meeting.
Councilman Will Dujardin said some Elk Avenue rents were more than $2,500 per month so the cap might be too low. He foresaw businesses applying for more and asking for the program to extend into early summer if necessary.
“I am glad that the town can step up and help small businesses in this extraordinary time,” said councilmember Mallika Magner.
“It’s also important to keep the big picture in mind,” noted councilmember Mona Merrill. “Some of the businesses may need more help in the fall. Where will everyone be in October and November, depending on what this summer does? But things are evolving so fast. I’m hopeful.”
Mayor Jim Schmidt expressed some desire to help individuals as well as businesses. Zillioux said the federal and state governments have done a quick job to address individuals through things like unemployment payments. “We can’t do everything for everybody and there are other safety nets out there,” he said.
Schmidt noted Gunnison County was setting aside money for small business loans that would be administered through Region 10. And he expressed concern that such town funds might be better set aside in case affordable housing residents defaulted on their mortgage and the town needed to step in with financial help. “It is cheaper to pay a few months of mortgage than to lose a deed restriction because of foreclosure to the bank,” Schmidt said.
Zillioux said the town could use money in the affordable housing fund for such a purpose.
Council voted 5-0 to immediately set aside the $100,000 for a business relief fund. Zillioux hopes to begin distributing the money to businesses in need as soon as possible.