Montour County approved application processes and allocations by category for $1.64 million in federal grants that will aid residents with slow internet, small businesses, nonprofits and government agencies affected by the pandemic.
The funds, from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, are currently divided among seven categories, with most of it — $600,000 — going to small businesses and the next most — $350,000 — going to nonprofits.
Commissioner Chairman Ken Holdren said the county is both excited and relieved to be able to provide the funds.
“We know everyone has been impacted by the pandemic,” he said. “We are proud of the way everyone and every organization in Montour County has responded to get through this new world.
“We will focus allocation of grants to those who have been most impacted by the pandemic. Hopefully, these grants will allow businesses to remain open and nonprofits to continue to serve their missions.”
Holdren said the act identified seven categories for potential use.
“The allocations were broadly discussed with the advisory committee and the committee recommended an allocation which was adjusted as more information became available of the specific needs in several areas, such as broadband,” he said.
The broadband allocation, $200,000, will be coordinated through DRIVE, the Columbia and Montour counties’ economic development cooperative.
Small businesses will be able to receive up to $15,000 each. They must submit costs (insurance, property taxes, utilities, etc.) for five months in 2020 and full year 2019 and income. The county will work with the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, which will gather and assess applications through its website.
Under the current plan, the grant deadline will be Aug. 18 and grant awards will be approved at the commissioners’ Aug. 25 meeting.
Final regulations are being written and county leaders will participate in a Department of Community and Economic Development webinar Tuesday to obtain the latest guidance, Holdren said.
He said any progress or changes to the process will be discussed during future commissioners meetings, as has been the case with each meeting since the act was announced.
Businesses that received no aid through the federal Paycheck Protection Program or the Economic Disaster Loan Program will have their amounts adjusted upward by 5 percent as long as it doesn’t push the business over the $15,000 limit.
“The increase was not recommended in the act but guidance was provided to focus on those who to this point had received no form of governmental support,” Holdren said. “Once we have identified the need, if dollars remain to support businesses, we will re-address the cap later in the fall.”
The county set aside $264,330 in unallocated funds that will be part of the second round of grants in September for unaddressed needs.
One of the keys to the process so far, Holdren said, has been review committee members assigned to each category.
Holdren is on the local government committee. Fellow commissioners Trevor Finn and Dan Hartman join other leaders in the county — like school Superintendent Ricki Boyle, Danville Business Alliance Executive Director Rebecca Dressler and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau Executive Director Otto Kurecian, to name a few — on other committees.
“The commissioners brainstormed who we thought would be able to best assist us to use these grants to achieve maximum benefit for the county,” Holdren said. “We then reached out to individuals and asked if they would be willing to assist us in our planning and distribution of grant funds. Everyone we asked quickly said yes and each has provided significant input to our planning efforts.”
The commissioners’ next scheduled meeting is 11 a.m. Aug. 11.