By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – A new grant program approved by Denver City Council is aimed at giving special event companies some relief. The industry, which struggled to stay afloat in 2020 due to the pandemic, has started to rebound thanks to a busy summer of weddings.

However, uncertainty due to COVID-19 and trouble hiring and retaining staff continue to hold companies back.

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(credit: Kevin Snyder Photography)

“So many people have left the hospitality industry,” said Syd Sexton, president of the Colorado Event Alliance and COO of Catered By Design.

According to Sexton, corporate business has not fully returned, and neither have employees. Each predicament presents its own challenge for staffing.

“We just have no idea if we’re going to have business or if we’re going to have to lay off people again,” Sexton said. “It’s become so competitive out there for us that just to be able to retain or rehire or hire those employees, it’s challenging.”

To help the situation, Denver City Council approved $500,000 in grants. Special event companies in the city and county that made at least 50% of their gross annual sales in the year 2019 can each request up to $10,000 and give up to $1,000 to each employee as a hiring or retention bonus.

The grant was secured through the Colorado Event Alliance and Denver Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO). It is funded through the federal CARES Act.

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(credit: CBS)

“It’s money for you to give to your employees who have worked so hard or haven’t worked and you’re so glad to have them back,” Sexton said.

Eclectic Hive, a design-forward event rental house, is one of 23 companies that’s already been approved for grant money. Director of operations Amber Crausby said the money will go toward staff bonuses at the start of the year.

“(It’s) just an incentive to say, ‘hey we’re investing in you, we would like you to keep investing in us, trusting us, staying with us.'”

According to Sexton,  close to $400,000 is still up for grabs and the money must be spent by the end of the year.

“We’re hoping it’s a jumpstart,” she said. “Obviously, it’s a small amount of money per employee, but it is encouraging I think to the businesses.”

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Applications are still open through the Colorado Event Alliance’s Website.

Conor McCue