The Stephenville City Council approved three programs on Wednesday to help stimulate the local economy as it endures through the COVID-19 crisis.
The first program the council approved is a restaurant recovery plan. Under this plan, residential water customers will receive a voucher for $25.00 to use at local restaurants.
Allen Barnes, city manager, told the council that there are 4,600 residential customers in the city.
The vouchers will be good for a one time use and must be used at a local restaurant by June 30 of this year. Restaurants will have until July 15 to redeem the vouchers with the city.
The vouchers are expected to be mailed within the next 10-14 days. Further information will be provided on the vouchers and information sheets that will be delivered to restaurants.
The second program is a joint effort between the City of Stephenville and the Stephenville Economic Development Authority that is designed to help those personal service businesses who have been closed by order through no fault of their own.
“Alot of the businesses were hurting because they didn’t qualify for the 3P put out by the government,” he said. “We had a conversation with our staff about the possibility about doing a loan/grant program somewhat patterned after the 3P that would make loans to these businesses in the amount not to exceed $2,500 that would help them bridge the time that they’re closed.”
The loan/grant program would be a cost share between the City of Stephenville and the Stephenville Economic Development Authority or SEDA.
Barnes recommended that the loan/grant program should be restricted to one-on-one businesses like barbershops and hair salons. He said there are 60 personal one-on-one businesses in the city.
The program will provide loans that can be forgiven if the businesses comply with the requirements to do so.
“If they qualify for 3P and they don't take it, if they take the grant from us, then they have to pay it back with an interest rate and I would recommend an interest rate somewhere around six or seven percent,” Barnes suggested.
Council members Gerald Cook and Brandon Huckabee argued that the interest rate was high.
Stephenville Mayor Doug Svien suggested for the council to let the staff come up with the interest rate number and report the number to the council.
“This is a hand-up, not a hand-down,” Barnes added. “At this point, we have not decided on an application process or an award criteria.”
Please watch the City’s and SEDA’s websites and social media pages in the next couple of weeks for details.
The council approved a third plan by SEDA to help businesses, now and when they are able to reopen.
Jeff Sandford, executive director of SEDA, told the council that the program is called ReSTART (Restoring Stephenville Assist, Relieve and Transform).
“It was a program that we put together after listening to over 100 businesses in our community of the needs that they have and following along to put together the best plan that would meet their needs initially, based on resources, based on timing, based on other qualifications,” Sandford said.
SEDA will assist businesses obtain the personal protection products like sanitizer and thermometers required under the city’s disaster declaration. The plan will help businesses with the many issues they will face in reopening, from help with advertising to access to retail information from city consultant, the Buxton Group.
Sandford talked about a tool called LSMX that would help businesses analyze their desired customers.
“The program itself will not only help someone create the ad, it will also help them develop exactly what their message is, the pictures, timing of it, everything that can go out,” he said. “Our board has asked for up to $500 per business in helping with their advertising.”
Sandford said he would provide information to businesses to help them get reopened.