If you want to fritter away a couple hours, go up to Schuylkill County Courthouse and ask them how hard they worked on getting local small businesses some COVID relief money last year.
Clear your calendar. You’ll need at least an afternoon. They love to talk about it.
In fact, two weeks ago, we heard for the umpteenth time how much time numerous Schuylkill County officials spent processing applications for small business grants that were to come from the $12.7 million in CARES Act money.
And they told us, again, that they made sure just about everyone that applied for a grant, got one. It wasn’t easy, they say. You, if you got a grant, should be grateful. Some of them, they say, even worked on the weekends to get this done.
Why? There were so many rules regarding how that CARES Act money could be distributed. And one wrong step in the process – even down to an uncrossed T – could result in an infraction and the Schuylkill County government would be forced to repay that money.
The Real Dog-and-Pony Show Over Small Business Grants in Schuylkill County
Now, if you’re a small business, you wouldn’t want that hanging over your head, right?
After all, the Commissioners were careful the whole year to make sure they weren’t violating the rules of the CARES Act. (In reality, they spent money like it was going out of style, and at the end of the year, made up numbers in their final spending report to make it look good for auditors.)
The only problem with their hard work narrative is, however, the money for those CARES Act grants didn’t come from the CARES Act. That was one of the startling revelations from when the County finally – after several months – divulged how it spent that $12.7 million windfall.
Although the Commissioners and other Courthouse officials spent months telling the public that it was working to get those grants to businesses while still following the rules of the CARES Act, it was all moot in the end. While originally the idea was to take the money from that CARES Act fund to pay for the grants, that’s now how it got reported in the end.
But that didn’t even stop them from telling us how hard they worked to follow the rules for those grants AFTER they already revealed that the money for the grants didn’t come from that till. Instead, the money came from the County’s General Fund.
That means the County could have come up with any rules they wanted for the grant. They could have blindly approved every application they received. At the very least, they could have saved themselves a lot of time working on getting those grants approved.
But then, of course, they wouldn’t have had such a great story to tell.