By Greg Oliver
CLEMSON — As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact The Arts Center and other nonprofits in the city have felt, Clemson City Council unanimously approved two measures designed to provide relief on Monday night.
Council agreed to allocate $40,000 from the city’s hospitality tax fund to bridge the gap between now and July 1, when the nonprofit will officially become a city organization. Interim city administrator Andy Blondeau told council that conversations with Arts Center director Joan Phillips and board chair Sue Wharton determined that amount of money was necessary to meet payroll obligations and upfront costs they will not be reimbursed for with new program income.
“The Arts Center came to us a couple of weeks ago and said that due to the virus and their transition into becoming part of the city, it has made it pretty much impossible for them to operate,” Blondeau said. “They were relying solely on programming income to pay their bills, and they have no programming income coming in (because of the virus).”
Rather than making one lump-sum payment, Blondeau recommended evaluating each bill as it comes in to determine which services the city needs to keep and which ones can be discontinued.
“We found they’re going to need a bridge of about $40,000 to meet all those obligations,” Blondeau said.
Mayor pro tem John Ducworth praised Blondeau, administrative assistant Lindsey Newton — who serves as the city’s liaison on the Arts and Cultural Commission — finance director Joel Seavey and Phillips.
“They did a really good job pulling this together,” Ducworth said. “Obviously, it’s an unfortunate situation they’re in, but they went over it with a fine-tooth comb to limit that. This is something we need to take on and basically incorporate them.”
City council also helped The Arts Center and all nonprofits that lease space from the city by unanimously approving a motion to suspend lease payments through June 30, which marks the end of the fiscal year.
Officials said nonprofits haven’t been immune from cash-flow issues due to the pandemic. They said the action will result in a $17,500 investment in those organizations.
“Suspending their lease payments will allow them to reinvest that money into the vital services they provide to our community and have them better positioned to withstand the economic slowdown,” Blondeau said.
Council agreed that the period could be extended past June 30 if the organizations continue to feel financial hardships related to the virus.
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