Holyoke waives license fees for businesses, will set up temporary shelter

  • The Unicorn Inn in Holyoke is shown in March. On Tuesday, Holyoke’s License Board voted to waive renewal fees for a range of license categories, including entertainment, alcohol, automatic amusement devices and common victualler. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/21/2020 2:43:00 PM

HOLYOKE — Many Holyoke businesses whose activities continue to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic will have their license renewal fees waived this fiscal year.

Mayor Alex Morse said in a phone interview Wednesday that the city License Board, with his encouragement, voted to waive those fees for a range of license categories, including entertainment, alcohol, automatic amusement devices, and common victualler. The decision, Morse said, was the city doing its small part to help businesses hurt by the pandemic.

“We as a city need to do as much as we can to relieve the financial burden placed on our residents and our small business owners who are going through a very difficult time,” Morse said, adding that with revenue down, some local businesses have had to close altogether. “The expectation shouldn’t be they pay the same fee to the city.”

Overall, Morse said that fee waiver would cost the city around $75,000 — what he said seems “like a manageable decision for the city to make.”

“Right now, it makes a much larger difference to the individual businesses who have to pay these fees,” Morse said.

The waiving of fees is one of several initiatives the city has implemented in an effort to help local businesses. The city has established a small business grant program of its own — administered by the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce — directed $165,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds and $35,000 in funding from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office to the program.

As for residents who don’t own businesses, Morse said that the city is in the early discussion stages of establishing direct cash payments to certain Holyoke Public Schools families who are housing insecure or most need the resources. He noted that money is much-needed, particularly given the fact that Gov. Charlie Baker allowed the state’s eviction moratorium to expire, allowing eviction proceedings to begin in housing court on Monday.

To deal with those evictions, Morse said the city has been trying to fund a lawyer to represent tenants in eviction proceedings. And he said the city, which doesn’t have an emergency shelter for those experiencing homelessness, is setting up a temporary shelter for the winter with the hopes of establishing a permanent one.

“We’ve put together a working group to make those things happen,” Morse said. “This would be an emergency shelter that I think is also much-needed.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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