Cochrane town council has approved the establishment of a COVID-19 professional services grant program to help struggling small businesses access provincial and federal assistance.

Now gears are in motion to roll out the $20,000 program being managed for the town by the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce. 

Last night, Chamber executive director Kelly Carson told town council that government assistance programs can be complicated to navigate.

"Many have applied for some of this stuff but found out it was kicked back to them and found out they were going down the wrong path, and they didn't have the right information," Carson told council. "So the need to have a professional person manage these affairs to help them get some of this money is deep.

"I personally go day-to-day from business to business and find out that money's short, money is tight, and I think it's a huge step for council to allow them to get involved in this to work them through what is in these programs because it is deep, and you have to have certain information and certain things, and the professional people are a necessity to tap that in."

Councillor Marni Fedeyko was concerned the assistance may not reach the businesses that need it most.

Carson assured her it would because of the very perimeters established by the government programs. He said most applicants would have to have seen a loss of 30 to 40 per cent in revenue because of the pandemic.

"If they don't qualify for any of these programs, based on they never lost any income, then they wouldn't get any of the funding that we're applying for today."

The town's economic recovery task force sought to pursue the program based upon one established in the City of Leduc.

Mayor Jeff Genung says with the same program, Leduc helped 87 businesses successfully apply for grants at an average cost of $600 per business.

Genung was told each of these Leduc businesses was able to access between $6,000 and $10,000 in funding thanks to the assistance provided. The city is now looking at expanding the program. 

Wetaskiwin County has also established a similar program.

Businesses will soon be able to apply through the local chamber's website. An applicant would be allotted a maximum of $500 towards third-party professional services.

Businesses that apply don't have to be a member of the chamber but must have a current Cochrane business licence.

Payment of services would be made directly to the third-party professional service upon receipt of a bill.

It's being funded by the town's economic development reserve fund.

Watch for more details.