Platte County has been given $12 million in federal CARES money to distribute
“small business public form” was held by video conference on Friday, with the topic being a grant program that could aid those businesses in Platte County who may have been negatively affected by COVID-19 and the resulting restrictions on some business operations.
Platte County has received more than $12 million in federal aid relief funds through what is known as the CARES Act. Ron Schieber, presiding county commissioner, said the county’s intention is to provide “a vast majority of those funds” for business grants.
He said there is a “pretty wide range of opportunity” for businesses in a grant program that the county commission is still developing. The county has asked the Platte County Economic Development Council (PCEDC) to be an administrator of the program. Matt Tapp, executive director of the PCEDC, described the EDC as “a standalone private non-profit” organization.
During the 7:30 a.m. video conference, Schieber explained that the purpose of the session was to get input from the small business community and gauge interest in the program.
“We are looking for you to help determine what the grant program looks like,” Schieber said to several business owners who were on the video call, the first of two held that day.
Tapp said officials are in the very early stage of assembling a process for the grant program. He said the county commission has described to him a desire to initially help businesses survive and then to help them thrive.
Tapp explained that a two component plan is being discussed, the first being helping businesses that might be hurting with shorter term immediate needs to keep the business up and running. The second phase would be for longer term needs “that will boost a business into expansion and growth for the rest of 2020,” he said.
Tapp and the three county commissioners, all of whom were in on the video conference, described a proposed procedure for grant applications as:
1. Grant applications to be submitted to the administrator (the Platte County EDC). The administrator would review and confirm the application package is full and complete, and communicate with the applicant on any needed corrections to the application. The administrator would then forward applications to a yet-to-be named review committee.
2. The review committee would then make recommendations that get forwarded to the Platte County Commission.
3. The Platte County Commission then makes the final decision on awarding of grants.
Tapp emphasized there are still a number of details about the program to be ironed out.
The application form, he indicated, would need to paint a picture of the business before and after the coronavirus hit.
“This is the process at a high level. There will be a lot more details to it,” Tapp said.
An online survey during Friday morning’s meeting generated 11 responses from people who had tuned in for the video conference. Six of the 11 indicated they had been in business for 20 years or more, Tapp said.
Scott Fricker, who sits on the Platte County Board of Equalization that hears property tax appeals at the county level, asked county commissioners what they expect the timeline to be as far as actually writing checks and getting assistance to business owners.
Dagmar Wood, first district county commissioner, said county officials at this time do not have a hard timeline set.
“Time is of the essence. Personally I would like to see an application process where small businesses don’t have to hire accountants and attorneys to fill out the application,” Wood said.
Earlier in the meeting, Wood said:
“This is not a welfare handout to businesses but a lot like eminent domain where there has been a government taking. Effectively through the shutdowns, the health departments have run a Mack truck through the collective storefronts of our businesses and we need to get that truck out and that storefront fixed and get our economic engine back up and running again. I’m excited about what this program can do to save some viable businesses and get them back up and running again.”
When asked by Schieber, Fricker said the question of how long it might take business owners to complete an application would depend on the “difficulty of the application.”
Schieber said he envisions two phases of distribution, one with a very abbreviated process with the goal being to get that money to businesses that are “on the verge of closing or really struggling.” The second phase would be a more detailed process to gauge what a business might need to “allow them to thrive.”
Fricker suggested the first phase application should be very brief, “one page of information submitted with a 2019 profit and loss showing they were profitable last year.” The form could be unaudited, he suggested, with a certification by the owner that it is accurate. The recipients could fall into the criteria of emergency need, “which would have mostly to do with saving jobs that are on the verge of being lost,” Fricker remarked. He remarked ideally it should be possible to get checks out by the middle of June.
Schieber wasn’t sure checks could be going out my the middle of June. “It takes longer than that in some cases to get a check out from county government,” he said.
Previously Schieber has mentioned the county commission will need to pass an ordinance “at some point, I don’t know exactly when, so that we can actually get this money into the community.”
At a May 18 meeting, county commissioners approved an agreement entitled “federal funding certification” with the state of Missouri. In that document, Platte County’s proposed uses of the CARES funds are only to cover those costs that:
A. Are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19;
B. Were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 for Platte County;
C. Were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020 and ends on Dec. 30, 2020.
Money not expended on necessary expenses during that time period must be returned to the state.
A key component from a political subdivision’s point of view is that a local government entity cannot use the funds as a replacement for lower than expected tax or other revenue collections.
The county, under the agreement with the state, may use the funds to make a grant to any other political subdivision within its jurisdiction. Such a grant shall be used solely for necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency of COVID-19.