The Burnet City Council and Economic Development Corporation held regular meetings March 24, and the issue that dominated both agendas related to providing financial assistance and relief to residents and businesses due to COVID-19.
The City Council extended the declaration of a local disaster, authorized assistance to the Burnet Chamber of Commerce, and moved to provide 30-day extensions to utility payments to those who request it. The EDC established a $300,000 program to give financial assistance to businesses within the city that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Things have been moving incredibly fast,” said Burnet City Manager David Vaughn. “This is a very fluid issue. Staff has been working really hard to respond to this, but this is probably, in my 20 years, some of the craziest, fastest-moving times we’ve had to deal with.”
The EDC formed a working committee to outline details of its program, which is scheduled to be considered for final adoption on Friday, March 27. The goal of the program is to provide bridge loans to help businesses stay afloat in weeks to come.
“I’m very proud of the EDC board and what they’re willing to do,” Vaughn said. “I don’t think there’s anything better we could be doing with our money right now than help support local businesses and help retain them.”
Meanwhile, the city authorized assistance to the Chamber of Commerce in light of the cancellation of the Bluebonnet Festival, with the total amount contingent on a formal legal agreement between the chamber and the city. The Bluebonnet Festival brings in substantial revenues for the chamber, which, without those funds, is in dire straits financially.
“A lot of money they’re going to get in assistance is not money (the chamber) needs to pay their bills, it’s money they owe people back,” said Vaughn, adding that some sponsors have not asked for refunds and are instead asking their sponsorship be applied to next year’s festival.
The City Council also directed staff to provide one-time, 30-day extensions to utility payments for those who request it during the next three months.
“The reality is we need to be flexible with people,” Vaughn said. “We need to work with them in flexible payment arrangements.”
For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, visit the DailyTrib.com coronavirus resources webpage.