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Town of Oxbow says relief fund made a difference in the community

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When asked why the town decided to disperse funds granted to the town this way, Chief Administrative Officer Lisa Pierce shared, "We felt the bonus money could be best used to help our residents when they needed it the most."

In 2020, the Town of Oxbow and every other municipality in Saskatchewan received funding based on numbers per capita for the Safe Restart Saskatchewan Fund (SRSF), a provincial initiataive to boost the Saskatchewan economy. Pierce had spoken to many residents in the community and took their words to heed.

A bylaw to issue the emergency business relief fund was established and went through standard readings to make the adoption. The town council passed it, and they formerly started to accept applications.

"In creating the bylaw, we wanted to encompass many factors; we wanted to help businesses that were not only affected by Covid-19 but those that were also affected by the drop in the Oil & gas economy," shared Pierce. "Business owners had to show you a shortfall and explain how they would use the funds.

We received just over 79 thousand dollars from the SRSF and applied all of that money plus 83,200 in tax abatements, and 12,000 in forgiven utility fees, all totalling over 174,000 dollars that we gave back to the community."

Many municipalities used the funding they received for elsewhere; Oxbow could have done the same, "The operating and capital budgets were already set and we didn't want to put it towards a piece of pavement or machinery; we wanted to make a difference right now to the community when they needed it the most."

The town provided the relief fund, but they also waived interest on Town tax and ultitiy accounts and offered no tipping fees at the landfill for residents of Oxbow, Glen Ewen and the RM of Enniskillen.

Over 40 businesses took part in the program. Pierce wasn't sure how many companies are operating in the community as no formal business license bylaw exists. Still, if she had to guess, around 60 or 70 businesses call Oxbow and the area home.

"It was a real mixture of businesses using the fund, retail and restaurants, oil & gas, and even home-based businesses," added Pierce. "I don't believe any business were lost throughout the pandemic. Some shut down because of the restrictions, but they all reopened. And I am proud to say that our business community has grown  since the initial intake."

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