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County approves $1 million small business loan program

The loan program is aimed at helping small county businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic
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County of Wellington Administration Centre. Keegan Kozolanka/GuelphToday file photo

COUNTY OF WELLINGTON – County council has approved a partnership with Wellington-Waterloo Community Futures (WWCF) and the Saugeen Economic Development Corp. (SEDC) to facilitate a loan program for Wellington County businesses.

Keep Well – Emergency Business Sustainability Fund will provide loans up to $25,000 to support Wellington County businesses that are experiencing economic challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday the county also authorized its treasurer to transfer up to $1 million from the corporate contingency reserve to WWCF and SEDC. The companies are not-for-profit organizations supported by FedDev Ontario who offer support, financing and training for businesses in Wellington County. 

This comes after last week’s remote council meeting where a motion was brought forward directing county staff to look into the feasibility of the county providing immediate help to small businesses.

In a press release, Minto mayor George Bridge, who is also the county’s economic development chair, said the challenges faced by local businesses are unprecedented.

“The Keep Well – Emergency Business Sustainability Fund will be able to provide immediate support to our business community,” Bridge said in a press release. 

The loans will come with a 3 per cent interest rate and no payments required for the first six months. Loan repayment is over five years with flexible repayment terms.

Applications will require a recent financial statement to show the business can pay back the loan. 

Ken DeHart, county treasurer, said in council that they anticipate funds could be available as soon as three business days when applicants are approved. 

The loans will be on a first-come first-served basis but Warden Kelly Linton said there is a possibility of extending the funding beyond the $1 million. 

“If we cycle through this pretty quick, there’s no reason we can’t have a council meeting providing direction one way or the other,” Linton said in council. 

In council, the warden expressed his gratitude to staff for delivering this project so quickly after it was introduced last week. 

“Moving quickly will help the small businesses in Wellington County,” Linton said. “It’s important that the county plays a key role here to help small businesses to keep the lights on and keep the doors open with some much needed cash flow.”

Businesses located in Centre Wellington, Town of Erin, Guelph-Eramosa, Mapleton or Puslinch are asked to contact WWCF general manager Rick Whittaker at rick@wwcf.ca to learn more and apply for funds.

The contact for businesses in Minto or Wellington North is SEDC general manager Rose Austin at rose@sbdc.ca or call (519)-799-5750 ext. 1.