Schuylkill County has finally launched a small business grant program for companies adversely impacted by the state’s coronavirus pandemic response. Officials within the Courthouse just haven’t let the public know about it yet.
And it doesn’t seem like they have plans to do so either.
Money to fund the grants will come from Schuylkill County’s CARES Act allocation of nearly $13 million.
The Canary’s been noting Schuylkill County’s lack of a small business grant program for several weeks and this will certainly be welcome news for small businesses here. However, as the county government has been doing since it first deposited this money, it’s not being transparent about this grant program.
Schuylkill County Launches Small Business Grant Program Using CARES Act Money
Rather than host a formal public announcement to encourage any small business in Schuylkill County to apply for funds to offset losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic response, the only way you’d know about this program is if you’re a member of the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber President Bob Carl emailed members with information on the grant program shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to information we’ve received at The Canary. The Chamber did post information on the grant program to its Facebook page but evidence there shows not many people have seen it.
Carl writes in an email to Chamber members, “We received late yesterday (Tuesday), this information attached from Schuylkill County Administrator, Gary Bender, concerning the Schuylkill County COVID-19 Block Grant monies and application availability for small businesses and non-profits. We encourage you to carefully review the three attached documents and then decide if applying makes sense for your business or non-profit.”
The message indicates that just like we learned several weeks ago, in order to submit your grant application, you’ll need to “contact Mr. Bender” at the Courthouse.
Of course, not all small businesses in Schuylkill County are members of the Chamber of Commerce. So, it’s troubling that the County would forward this information to the Chamber for distribution exclusively with no intent of notifying the public.
This grant program is not part of the Schuylkill County Commissioners work session Agenda for Aug. 20, just 2 days after the program was launched.
Businesses who wish to get funds from the grant program aren’t required to be part of the Chamber of Commerce or any other local business association.
Grants up to $10,000 are available. And the deadline to apply is September 2, which means the County is giving small businesses here about 2 weeks to submit requests. The County’s been holding on to the money for several months and using it to cover its own expenses.
Most recently, Schuylkill County agreed to purchase more than $2 million in mobile dispatch units for the 9-1-1 center in the event it might be impacted by a COVID-19 outbreak. Money for these dispatch units came from the CARES Act allocation.
Schuylkill County Business Interruption Grant Requirements
Although any small business can presumably apply for one of these local grants, preference is being given to companies that did not successfully apply for and receive money from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Plan loan fund or the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
There are also some requirements of the businesses seeking these funds:
- Money is available for businesses with less than 100 employees or non-profit organizations
- Grants available for businesses or other entities in the tourism industry
- Businesses must have been in operation on March 1, 2020
Private, for-profit businesses applying for these grants must submit, along with the application and relevant forms (see below), this pertinent information:
- W-9 form
- Most recent federal tax return
Sole proprietors must provide the following:
- 2018 or 2019 Schedule C
Non-profit corporations must provide the following:
- Copy of IRS determination letter
- Most recent financial statement
- Most recent Annual Report
Businesses that weren’t forced closed by restrictions imposed by the state government may still be eligible for a local grant if:
- They experienced lost revenue or incurred bigger costs due to the pandemic response.
- They voluntarily closed or experienced reduced demand because of social distancing requirements.
Non-profit organizations may apply for a local grant if they lost fundraising revenue throughout the course of the pandemic response. The County will review all applications and make determinations in early September.
What Expenses Could be Recouped with This Grant?
Here are the expenses that a Schuylkill County small business could potentially get back if it’s approved:
- Mortgage interest
- Utility bills
- Cable TV service
- Internet service
- Phone service
- Product spoilage
- PPE purchases
- Cleaning supplies
- Unemployment Compensation costs
- Expenses to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19
The County will consider other expenses a business says are caused by its response to the pandemic restrictions.
- Schuylkill County Using $2.197 Million in CARES Money for Backup 9-1-1 in Case of COVID
- Schuylkill County Might Use CARES Act Money to Purchase GIANT Property
- Some Counties Created a Grant Fund for CARES Act Money – In Schuylkill, You Need to “Contact Mr. Bender”
- Halcovage Suggests GIANT May Be Used for County Office Space Because of COVID-19
Schuylkill County COVID-19 Business Interruption Grant Forms
Here are the forms the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce circulated to its members inviting them to apply for grants:
Small Business Interruption Grant Application -Schuylkill County.docx
Schuylkill Countyl Non-Governmental Business CARES Application.docx
Frequently Asked Questions.- Schuylkill County.docx
August 20, 2020 at 8:16 am
TMAS(The Mutual Admiration Society)=The Schuylkill County Chamber of Commerce.
Anon E. Mouse
August 20, 2020 at 12:28 pm
Interesting. Did they note how much money of the total funds allotted is available for these grants? The September 2nd deadline appears to be self-imposed, since the deadline for disbursement is December 30th.
Makes no sense: if these are one time grants in the form of a single check, why is there a four (4) month window from deadline to apply to disbursement of funds? If the money is available for companies impacted between March 1st and December 30th and today my company today is managing, but by October 15th we still have no relief from restrictions, and now my company is is dire straits, what do I do then?
August 20, 2020 at 1:05 pm
Hence why we’ve been on them about this from the outset of the money being announced. The Chamber got its information from the County and said it would update members if/when they got more details on the program.
Giving businesses 2 weeks to sort out the particulars and make sure they’re applying for the proper amount of money – so as not to get turned down – is basically giving small businesses the finger.
And no, they’ve not set aside x-amount of money for the program, at least we couldn’t find the information publicly available. We COULD ask but is that really our job? People who claim or think they’re being transparent should not have to be dogged for this information for months.
All they have to do is call a press event, put up a banner exclaiming this exciting new grant program for small businesses – and thereby showing how pro-business they claim to be – and get companies excited about it and excited about their business after what’s likely been a very rough year.
But not here. Nope. A secret email to the Chamber for Chamber members to find out about it first, thereby punishing businesses who don’t join the Chamber, and still no public presentation, with just 2 weeks to apply for the money after sitting on it for months.
When this came out, we used this specific subject as a test of their abilities as County officials. That’s why we’ve been on it more than any other media outlet, at least we believe we have. How would they handle this largess? We knew they’d find ways to spend money on pet projects, etc. But to stick it to small businesses like this is really just unthinkable. Hopefully voters remember this debacle the next time elections happen.
December 29, 2021 at 11:08 am
This scam “racket” gets paltry dollars to choking businesses AFTER all the grifters get their cut… that’s the racket… that’s why the large, unspoken for window exists with little or no explanation…