Montrose City Council hosted a special meeting on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The meeting was virtual, with the public tuning into the meeting via a Zoom link with phone-in options available to those without Internet access. Members of city council and staff all tuned in virtually as well.
The meeting was held to discuss Montrose's emergency management protocols in response to COVID-19 following the transition to a Tier 4 emergency response. City Manager Bill Bell, Director of Business Innovation Chelsea Rosty and Police Chief Blain Hall gave updates on the city’s ongoing response to the pandemic.
“We now have three confirmed COVID-19 cases in Montrose County. I do expect that number to rise. We have 137 people that have been tested in Montrose County, 113 of those tests are still pending,” Hall said. “I want to communicate to the public that the low number of positive COVID-19 cases should not give anyone a false sense of security.”
A primary focus of the meeting was to discuss ways to provide assistance to small businesses who have seen negative economic impacts as a result of the pandemic, including major decreases in revenue or mandates to close entirely.
Using leftover money in reserve accounts that was not budgeted this year, city council hopes to provide loans to small businesses that have been mandated by the state to shut down. The current projected loan amount would be $5,000 (with no interest) to help businesses with rent and utility payments during the pandemic. Bell hopes the loan program, in a “more flexible capacity than our traditional lending program,” will help businesses survive until the situation passes.
“When we’re all past what hopefully doesn’t last longer than 90 days, they can rebuild the backbone of our economy, which is our small businesses, and get those back up and running,” Bell said.
The loans will be granted on a case by case basis and plans are being made for spending accountability. Due to limited funds, businesses that have taken major financial blows due to state mandates will be considered foremost.
“I think we need to prioritize who’s been shut down completely,” Bell said. “There’s no practical way the city of Montrose can help every single person during this crisis.”
After taking this week to deliberate and allow city staff to come up with a more detailed plan, city council will take a vote at the March 31 regular meeting.
In addition, for small businesses that make a gross sales of less than 2 million dollars, sales tax will be deferred for 90 days. Businesses affected will still need to collect sales tax and establish a repayment arrangement with the city finance department at the end of the pandemic response.
The businesses were selected based on conversations in the community, as well as the need to collect enough sales tax to keep city operations running throughout the situation.
City council and staff encourage the community to continue to practice social distancing while supporting local businesses by using pickup and takeout options. Mayor Dave Bowman took time during the update to commend the community for working together.
“What you’re doing now, keep doing it,” Bowman said. “Let’s keep those businesses alive. ...We’re all here to help the community get through this.”