Across the state of Oregon, cities have been looking for ways to provide assistance to businesses who have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 restrictions. Lincoln City is no different.
Over the past few weeks, the Lincoln City City Council created a subcommittee that has been tasked with putting together a COVID-19 Aid Package for businesses and others. On Monday, April 27, the City Council discussed several options for an aid package at their regularly scheduled meeting.
There were four items up for consideration. Item one is designed to benefit local businesses. The City came up with a total amount of $635,000 to distribute. The total amount is divided between the lodging businesses ($235,000) and non-lodging businesses ($400,000). The specific division of money is left blank at this time.
This money will come from the Explore Lincoln City contingency. Explore Lincoln City will then purchase goods and services using a voucher system to promote tourism during the recovery phase of the emergency.
There was much debate on how exactly the funds will be spent and the manner in which they will be spent.
“This is going to be metered out over a long time,” Explore Lincoln City Director Ed Dreistadt said. “We are going to distribute it in creative ways. I don’t want to just pull in a $5,000 credit all at once. That would be a disaster.”
The metered approach to spending the money at local businesses will hopefully help the longevity of the business, according to Dreistadt. Eligible businesses will include all businesses listed in the statewide or county order, businesses with a City of Lincoln City Occupational Tax Permit, businesses with six full time employees and less, as well as other criteria.
There was much debate on whether national chain businesses and franchise businesses should be included. Mayor Dick Anderson was adamant that chains and franchises should be included, considering many of the store managers are Lincoln City residents and their companies are often involved in community activities.
“Personally I think it would be a slap in the face,” Anderson said of not including chains and franchise businesses. “Just because they are a national chain, doesn’t mean they aren’t local. These folks have kicked in a lot of money to our economy.”
Eventually, the council settled on allowing chains and franchise businesses to apply, as long as they meet the criteria.
Part two of the COVID-19 relief package would include economic relief by waiving or forgiving an outstanding water and sewer utility bill for those affected by the Coronavirus. The City allotted another $635,000 to be pulled from the general fund contingency.
After more discussion, and some concern from City Attorney Richard Appicello, the City revised this proposal made by the subcommittee.
“I’m not sure this is something we can legally do,” Appicello said. “I’m not comfortable doing this. I was under the impression that this would be a deferral of payment.”
Following the advice of Appicello, the council decided to approve a deferral of payment for the utilities, eligible to affected residents that would include a repayment plan over a period of time.
The third item up for discussion in the relief package was a donation to individual groups within the community that have been feeding community members meals since March 24. Councilor Judy Casper drafted a proposal and noted several businesses that have volunteered time and money to help those in need.
These businesses include St. James Church, who has been serving grab and go meals and purchasing food for the community; Shiloh Gathering Place, who has been serving meals as needed, donating food and gas gift cards to those in need; The Eagles Lodge in conjunction with The Grill 1646 and Ocean’s Apart Catering, who have been serving 500 meals a week to medically fragile immune deficient people within the community; and other businesses that have helped along the way such as My Petite Sweet and Depoe Baykery, who have donated time and resources.
Casper suggested the City provide financial assistance in the form of a grant gift certificate for supplies during the pandemic.
“Their dedication and kindness should not go unsupported and unnoticed,” Casper said.
The City Council discussed several options and several other non-profits and businesses in the area who have been donating meals and other services to the community through the pandemic, such as Neighbors For Kids, Marci’s Bar and Bistro and the Lincoln County School District. Councilor Diana Hinton also brought up the idea to provide some sort of financial boost to essential workers such as grocery store workers.
The City Council decided to open up their list of businesses that qualify and they voted to approve a donation of $50,000 to be split between the selected non-profits and contract with other businesses that are not non-profits.
The full City Council discussion is available to view online at http://lincolncityor.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx