Kane County may offer businesses second chance at COVID-19 relief funds

 
 
Updated 10/27/2020 8:44 PM

Local businesses may get a second chance to receive COVID-19 pandemic relief funds after Kane County Board members said this week they continue hearing from business owners who didn't know the county has $8 million to distribute.

But county officials will have to balance trying to spend all the money by the end of the year and protecting against fraud.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The money is part of a $93 million pool the county received from the federal CARES Act in April. Since then, county officials have tried to create a program to get COVID-19 relief to small businesses.

Those efforts saw slow progress in the first two months after the county received the money as officials tried to navigate and understand evolving U.S. Treasury Department rules about the legal uses for the money. The business grants also have the most sophisticated level of approval, compared to money set aside for local municipalities and other taxing bodies.

For instance, the county board decided to restrict the grants, of up to $20,000, to businesses with up to $2.5 million in gross annual profits. Businesses must also be able to show a loss of revenue over 18 months. And the businesses must show they will spend the money on appropriate expenses, such as rent and utility costs.

Those are hurdles some businesses have found more difficult than others, county officials said. Many of the 251 applications came in lacking accurate financial information. And some business owners have had difficulty determining what's being asked of them, while others didn't respond to county requests for more information.

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So far, the county has processed about half of the applications. The completed applications show a total request for nearly $4 million of assistance.

But with grants maxing out at $20,000 per business, the county is looking at cutting checks for only about $1.7 million. That leaves $6.3 million unspent.

"I'd like to see the entire $8 million go to small businesses," said county board member Drew Frasz. "I know the demand is out there. We counted on the chambers of commerce to get the word out. What they did or didn't do, I don't know. It just seems like a lot of people didn't know about this."

County board member John Hoscheit, who is leading the committee overseeing the funds, said he believes the information was widely available on the county website, through local municipalities and chambers of commerce.

"From day one, the committee has been focused on getting business grants out there," Hoscheit said. "Some people pay attention. Some people don't pay attention."

Having taken more than six months to get to the point where the county is now halfway through the initial business grant applications, Hoscheit said the only way to bring in more applications is to streamline the requirements and vetting process. Otherwise, the county won't be able to process payments by the year-end deadline.

He suggested the county may target a second round of applications to bars and restaurants closed or otherwise affected by COVID-19 restrictions put in place starting last Friday for Kane County. The committee could discuss parameters of such a program as soon as next week.

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