With full economic recovery from the pandemic expected to take several years, Chatham-Kent will soon be considering various measures to help area businesses in the meantime.
An in-depth report from the COVID-19 recovery task force was presented to council this week, offering various recommendations on future actions and reallocation of resources.
While there were no decisions made during Monday’s virtual meeting, the presentation offered a glimpse into the challenges faced by businesses in Chatham-Kent, as well as in other jurisdictions.
Mike Grail, co-chair of the recovery task force, said a long-term vision, along with investing in community growth, is needed.
“Investing in growth allows for increased development,” he said. “It encourages people and businesses to locate here.”
This past summer, meetings were held with industry sectors to understand what has changed since the spring report and what steps the municipality could take.
Further details will come forward in future reports, with council providing direction at that time.
April Rietdyk, general manager of community human services, said it has been a difficult time for residents, businesses and other organizations, as well as the municipality.
“We’ve all kind of weathered certainly the last seven months,” she said. “With that, the municipality certainly has responded to this crisis, both to protect people’s lives and to support everyone’s livelihoods as best as we have been able to do.”
Some of the key task force recommendations include:
- A staff investigation of a community engagement policy and toolkit to ensure the community’s voice is reflected in decision making and report back to council;
- Extending the free permitting for fibre facilities for 2021-22 in next year’s budget at an estimated cost of $900,000 to support growth and recovery;
- Providing $20,000 in funding to the Chatham-Kent Non-profit Network to promote a central resource that will connect the non-profit sector for information sharing, access and navigation;
- Providing up to an additional $100,000 per year, dependent on staff capacity, for the next five years to expand the existing home ownership program administered by housing services. Funding would come from existing working capital, as the program revolves around repayable loans;
- Allocating up to $250,000 to offer Digital Main Street supports to businesses outside of the designated radius of the existing grant iff COVID-19 funding criteria allows to allow businesses to receive support in rebuilding through an e-commerce model; and
- Investing in increased access to childcare to give parents more choice and make high-quality programs more affordable that supports the child and workforce.
Councillors will also be asked to approve moving ahead with a development charge background study, and to consider debentures for new industrial, commercial and residential required infrastructure.
In addition, there will be an update on options to amend the purchasing policy to support local businesses while still complying with the legal requirement.
The Chatham-Kent Workforce Planning Board is also taking part in the recovery efforts through its involvement with the Ontario Labour Market Partnership: Post-Pandemic scenario-based project.
By the end of March of next year, local scenario-based labour market action plans will be created.