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Covington council approves grant funding for COVID-affected businesses
City clerk wins statewide group's Clerk of the Year award
Audra Gutierrez
Covington City Clerk Audra Gutierrez receives the 2020 Georgia Municipal Clerk of the Year award from Georgia Municipal Clerks Association President Paula Martin of Americus and Butler City Clerk Vicky Wainwright during a city council meeting Monday, Sept. 21. From left are Wainwright, who was the 2019 award winner, Gutierrez and Martin. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Covington City Council members have approved spending more than $31,000 to help businesses left out of a previous round of grants that helped cover losses due to COVID-19 interrupting operations.

Council members voted Monday, Sept. 21, to transfer $31,115 from city budget reserves to the Covington Development Authority for the Stabilization Fund grants. 

The Authority’s board will consider approving a total of 50 grants for entities which applied in a first round earlier this year but were left out because all funds had been given out, said William Smith, economic development manager for the city.

Businesses operating inside the Covington city limits with 20 or fewer employees can receive up to $2,000, and sole proprietors and one-employee businesses can receive up to $1,000.

The Authority will decide the amounts for each applicant based on factors considered in the first round. 

Priority will be given to businesses employing up to 20 full- and part-time employees; and those that operate outside the central business district, provide space for independent contractors, or which have operating expenses exceeding $2,000 per month.

Mayor Steve Horton said the grant money would be taken from surplus funds in the budget. Finance officials predicted they could make budget adjustments in October to replace the money, he said.

The Covington Development Authority gave out $121,496 in grants in the first round after using money from the city’s Electric Fund and reimbursing it with federal CARES Act funds, Smith said.

In other action at the meeting, council members unanimously denied a special use permit for a personal care home at 5128 N. Emory St. near the I-20 overpass.

The home is adjacent to the Conyers Haitian Church of God, which owns the building. Applicant Micheline Joseph told the council the 95-year-old former residence would operate as a personal care home for elderly and medically fragile patients. It would be staffed round the clock and be home to four individuals requiring care.

However, the city planning commission had recommended the council deny the permit because it did not believe a personal care home was a compatible use for the area, officials said. 

Councilwoman Fleeta Baggett said she did not believe the building's location on the half-acre lot would make it accessible to ambulances which may need to transport medically fragile patients living in the home.

Also at Monday’s meeting, representatives of the Georgia Municipal Clerks Association surprised Covington City Clerk Audra Gutierrez by presenting her with the statewide group’s 2020 Georgia Municipal Clerk of the Year award.

Association President Paula Martin of Americus and Butler City Clerk Vicky Wainwright, the 2019 recipient, gave Gutierrez the award.

Horton nominated Gutierrez, who received the honor for her “high level of professionalism, dedication and commitment to community service,” the association said.