HUDSON — Eligible small businesses can soon apply for a break on their next two city utility bills as part of the municipality’s effort to help companies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Council voted 5-0 April 21 to establish the Small Business Utility Relief Program. Council member Kate Schlademan (Ward 1), who owns the Learned Owl Book Store in downtown Hudson, said she abstained from discussing and voting on the legislation because she "could potentially get financial help from the program."

Through this program, eligible small businesses can soon apply for up to $200 in relief on their business utility bills for city-owned and operated electric and water services that are due in May and June, according to Council member Chris Foster (Ward 2).

"It is a step forward in trying to show the businesses that we are trying to help out," said Foster. "…I’m certainly glad this is moving forward and I hope more people follow our lead."

City spokesperson Jody Roberts later noted that businesses cannot apply for this utility relief program yet. She said that city officials will meet to discuss implementation of the program and added that more details will be released in the next few days.

A city-based business that either employs 20 or fewer full-time employees or has an annual revenue of $2 million or less is eligible for the program, according to the sample application that was attached to the legislation. If the company does not fit one of those parameters, its leaders can provide a description of their business on the application and explain why they believe they are eligible for the program. Roberts explained that providing a description of the business "would not be a guarantee of acceptance" into the program.

"This program is intended to assist small Hudson businesses that have suffered significant revenue loss due to the COVID-19 crisis," the application stated. "The program is not intended for larger businesses nor professional-type businesses (attorneys, accountants, engineers, etc). This program also excludes home-based businesses."

Council member Beth Bigham (Ward 4) said she was "thankful" that council, the administration and businesses were able to "come together" to set up the program.

"Hopefully this is something that will be positive for our community and a small step that we can take toward righting this," added Bigham.

Bigham, Foster and Council member Skylar Sutton (Ward 3) were appointed by Council President Bill Wooldredge (At Large) to serve on a subcommittee that was tasked with finding ways to assist city businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. This program is the first official action that has transpired from the subcommittee’s work.

After council approved the Small Business Utility Relief Program, Wooldredge asked the subcommittee to look at setting up a recovery program for businesses.

‘They’re going to need help," said Wooldredge,

Foster added he would like to see landlords "forgiving or forebearing" rent payments owed by businesses that operate in their buildings. Foster said he had heard from two businesses who said their landlord was insisting on immediate rent payments.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil