(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Buchanan County is sitting on over $9 million dollars of unused CARES act funding.
As of last Friday, only 70 businesses in the entire county have applied for this grant. County commissioners said the funding is meant to help small businesses get through the pandemic, but there's been less applicants than the county had originally thought.
“We had anticipated a much larger response and maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it tells us we weren’t as impacted as we were," said Scott Burnham, Buchanan County's Eastern District Commissioner.
While commissioners said the smaller pool of applicants could be attributed to the county doing better during the COVID-19 health crisis than anticipated, for small business owners like Austin Evans who owns three businesses in St. Joseph, he said getting that extra money made a difference.
“To get the grant money on the local level from the county was unexpected and awesome because at this point, revenues are bouncing back but you still feel the hit we all took from it. To get $5,000 dollars as sort of a windfall and as a cushion to help continue to assist through this and not know if there is going to be a second wave, has been incredible,” said Austin Evans, local business owner.
Evans received the grants for all three of his businesses. He said applying for the CARES act funding was simple.
“The process of getting this grant money, ridiculously easy. People get lazy about it and think it’s too much paperwork. Let me tell you, it’s like six pieces of paperwork. I didn’t even have one or two of the things, I was digging for it and I couldn’t find it. I sent in my application anyway. For example, I couldn’t find a county business license and I knew I had one. I sent it in without it and they looked it up, I’m good. I got it and got me the funds quick. I mean you’re talking about a week turnaround time,” said Evans.
County commissioners remind small businesses the CARES act funding is not only the $5,000 grant, but it also includes PPE reimbursement too.
“Masks, gloves, disinfected, hand sanitizer, even the glass shields some businesses have had to install. Those are all reimbursable,” said Burnham.
County commissioners have extended the cut off date for businesses to apply for the grant, extending to the end of July.
Burnham said the CARES act funding is a grant, not a loan and does not need to be paid back.
Small businesses operating with 2-40 employees may apply for the funding.