After successfully distributing $200,000 in grants to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lewis County Board of Commissioners on Thursday expressed interest in awarding another $200,000 in small grants, this time for area nonprofits, not eligible for the first round of money.
The Lewis County Board of Commissioners set aside $570,000 of its $4.3 million in COVID-19 relief funding from the federal CARES act for economic relief. The BOCC set aside $200,000 for grants for small businesses and tasked the Lewis Economic Development council and a volunteer board with accepting grant applications and determining qualified candidates.
EDC Director Matt Matayoshi announced Thursday in a meeting with the BOCC that 34 small businesses had been notified that morning that their requests would be funded.
The grants were available in $5,000 or $10,000 increments depending on the size of the businesses.
Matayoshi said that as soon as the EDC receives money from the county, it will send out checks to the businesses.
“Every member of that committee, who is also a member of this community, worked very hard to ensure that money was allocated to do the most good and be spent the most effectively it could based on the information we had available to us,” Matayoshi said.
The committee received 59 applications and exhausted its supply of funding after awarding the 34 grants. Matayoshi and committee members in attendance at Thursday’s meeting said some of the remaining applicants did not qualify or were not cooperative with the application process.
“I think we took very seriously the instructions and the spirit of what you said to us,” said committee member Larry McGee. “There were some that were on the margin. Clearly if we had more money at this time, we would have awarded more.”
Matayoshi said the state Department of Commerce has indicated it will work with EDCs to make more grant money available for small businesses.
Other unsuccessful applicants were nonprofits, which did not explicitly fall under the BOCC’s directive to award grants to small businesses.
“That’s a need in the comm we’ve identified and want to ask the commissioners, is that something that you would like to respond to — that need of nonprofits — and allocate funding or consider responding to that need?” Matayoshi said.
Meri Hamre, another member of the committee, said there are more than 500 nonprofit organizations in Lewis County.
“That’s a huge loss if we can’t support them,” she said. “We had four non profits with amazing applications.”
The commissioners agreed to discuss another $200,000 round of awards, this time geared toward nonprofits, early next week.
“Our nonprofits are very important to Lewis County,” said Commissioner Gary Stamper. “There’s a lot of people who rely on them. I think we really need to take a look, that would be my recommendation … we really take a hard look at providing those nonprofits with the bulk of the next round.”