Basalt prepares second round of coronavirus relief, including direct aid to businesses |

Basalt prepares second round of coronavirus relief, including direct aid to businesses

A woman crosses Midland Avenue in Basalt earlier this summer. While business has been stronger than forecast, town officials know some businesses will need aid to make it through the winter.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Basalt is preparing another round of coronavirus relief spending through residential rental assistance, a clinic’s COVID-19 testing, a food bank and direct business aid this winter.

The town government is reserving $50,000 to spend on issues identified by business owners and operators. It will spend up to an additional $7,500 on a survey to collect opinions on how best to help.

“We believe the best way is to talk to businesses about how they are struggling,” town manager Ryan Mahoney said Tuesday.

Many restaurants have taken advantage of expanded seating in the public right-of-way to be able to serve more people while still honoring social distancing rules. Cold weather will put an end to the outdoor seating, and there is a general concern about restaurants surviving the winter.

The survey of business representatives will be conducted within the next few weeks so planning can progress on how to help.

In addition to direct business aid, council approved a plan at its meeting Tuesday night that calls for $15,000 for rental assistance. About 20 families in deed-restricted or free-market housing in the Basalt area have sought rental assistance from Pitkin County through the end of July, according to James Lindt, assistant planning director. Anecdotally, additional town residents in affordable housing projects are struggling to cover their costs, he said.

There is a federal moratorium on evictions until the end of the year, but council members said some residents need help to stave off eviction down the line.

“You won’t get kicked out of your house but you’ll still pay at some time,” Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said. People who are struggling to pay rent also will be potentially subject to late fees, he noted, so it’s best to help them before their situation sours to the point where they will have to move out down the road.

Another $15,000 will be donated to Food Bank of the Rockies, which provides a mobile pantry once per week in the Basalt area.

“Last week they did close to 300 meals,” Mahoney said.

Officials believe the demand will remain high as the Roaring Fork Valley economy transitions into offseason. Basalt gave $10,000 to Food Bank of the Rockies in a first round of coronavirus relief.

Basalt will give $10,000 to the Mid-Valley Clinic, which started a nonprofit arm to provide low-cost or free COVID-19 tests.

In addition, $18,000 will go to the Basalt Chamber of Commerce for past, present and future outreach efforts with the business community.

Basalt was awarded $282,381 in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds that came through Eagle County ($222,467) and Pitkin County ($59,914).

In the first round of spending, it gave $50,000 to the Aspen Hope Center for mental health programs, $10,000 to the Aspen Community Foundation for various relief efforts and $10,000 to Food Bank of the Rockies.

The town also provided concrete barriers for restaurants to establish outside seating and paid artists to paint them. That cost nearly $12,500.

Another prime expenditure in relief funding was the Basalt Bucks program, where the town government provided $20 vouchers good at participating Basalt businesses. It was meant as a spending stimulus. To date, about 1,610 vouchers have been returned or about 45% of those distributed. Businesses are still turning them in for payment from Town Hall.

The vouchers were directly responsible for $32,200 in spending at businesses, with total spending from those transactions totaling $75,000, according to town finance director Christy Chicoine.

Basalt Mayor Bill Kane said he wants to consider renewing the Basalt Bucks program this winter with tweaks. He suggested the town government could sell $100 worth of Basalt Bucks to residents and visitors for $75 as a way to stimulate spending.

The town’s coronavirus relief funds must be spent this calendar year.

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