Businesses across Kansas are feeling unprecedented pressures from the economic and health impacts of COVID-19. The Kansas Department of Commerce called for a strong and creative response, and the Barton County Commission echoed that by announcing the availability of over $100,000 for working capital loans.
However, the Commission decided Monday to offer the balance of the county’s Community Development Block Grant/Economic Development Revolving Loan in the form of grants to Barton County businesses. They cited a lack of loan applications for the change.
“I imagine it will be very competitive,” county Grant Coordinator Sue Cooper said of the Barton County grants. “My hope is it will be distributed back to those businesses. The intent of this money wasn’t to hold on to it. The intent is to encourage businesses to apply for funding, and if you can’t give it away (as loans), perhaps we should grant it.”
The national objective of this federally funded Kansas Department of Commerce program is job retention, and the money must be used for working capital, Cooper said. The KDC defines that as salaries and wages, purchase of inventory, utilities, rent, insurance payments, etc.
And there are caps to the amount that can be granted, she said. A business with fewer than five full-time employees may apply for a maximum of $30,000, and six-50 full-time employees a maximum of $50,000. Also, at least 51% of a business’s employees must be considered low-to-moderate income. Each employee will need to complete an Employee Certification Form, defining how many people are in their household and the total family income from all family members in 2019.
“Since making these public announcements that we have funding (as loans), we have received one request for the $25,000 that you all approved,” Cooper said. This was OKed last week and it went to First Class Auto Design, owned by Michael and Shawna Petersilie, Hoisington.
“And we have had no other applications at this point in time,” she said. Kansas Secretary of Commerce David Tolin said entities like the county can offer them as for loans and or grants to promote applications.
Once this announcement is made, First Class Auto has indicated it would forego its load application in lieu of a grant.
Now, she anticipates a influx of calls.
“There’s a need out there right now and I think that if we’re sitting on money to grant to small businesses to keep them afloat during this time, I think it’s in our best interest to help those businesses stay in business,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. “That’s how we make our money, on taxes. So, if they go under, we go under.”
Once the county’s community block grants are completely extinguished, the commissioners would have the option of applying for additional community development block grant funding from KDC strictly for COVID-19 business relief, Cooper said. That would be a potential of $300,000 for grants only.
But, this is not a done deal, Cooper said. A lot of municipalities are eyeing this and it will be very competitive.
Although the KDC streamlined the application process for the current EDRL funding due to COVID-19, the money in the county’s fund was not earmarked specifically for pandemic relief, Cooper said. In fact, the county has $92,162.09 in outstanding CDBGs to multiple businesses.
These businesses are current on their payments. Once the loans are repaid, that money can be lent or granted again, Cooper said.
Commission Chairman Kenny Schremmer reiterated that the county intends to get the funds into the hands of local small business owners as quickly as possible. Funding is available for businesses located in Barton County, that are situated outside the city limits of Great Bend.
This includes companies in Hoisington, Ellinwood, Claflin, and other rural areas.
Both the county and the City of Great Bend have CDBGs available, with the city covering businesses in its city limits. Both entities utilize Dodge City-based Great Plains Development to administer the money.
Contact GPD at 620-227-6406 for further details, eligibility requirements and to complete an application.