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YCEA to spearhead small business CARES Act funding

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

A private organization will spearhead York County’s effort to allocate more than $40 million in CARES Act funds for small businesses and nonprofit organizations, the York County Commissioners announced Wednesday.

The York County Economic Alliance will help county officials come up with criteria for how business owners, nonprofit organizations and others will apply for federal relief funds, and will eventually coordinate distribution of some of the money.

President Commissioner Julie Wheeler said the county board has watched how Lancaster County officials handled the application and allocation process.  Lancaster County officials grappled with thousands of applications just from small businesses and nonprofit organizations alone, she said.

"We don't have the capacity to do that here, (with) the three commissioners," she said, referring to processing a high volume of applications. "And certainly, the economic alliance is very familiar with those types of processes, which is another reason we're looking to form a memorandum of understanding with them."

York County received $40.5 million in federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and all of the funds must be spent by Dec. 31, Wheeler said.

Julie Wheeler, a businesswoman and Republican committeewoman from Windsor Township, is running for the York County Board of Commissioners.

No funds have been allocated to specific projects or sectors yet, she said, except for the $200,000 that state officials recommended county governments earmark to cover administrative costs associated with the grant program.

The YCEA is tasked with framing criteria for nonprofit and business applications, scoring completed applications and bringing the results back to the commissioners for discussion and adoption, Wheeler said.

Once the nonprofit and small business applications start rolling in, the YCEA will review them based on the agreed-upon criteria and return to the county board with recommendations for awards.

The commissioners will make the final decision, Wheeler said, and having a third party review the applications will help ensure a fair and equitable distribution, she added.

Nonprofits and small businesses, including restaurants, are only one of several "buckets" of funding the commissioners have established.

Some of the other categories are reimbursement for the county government's COVID-related costs, expanded broadband internet access to facilitate work-from-home for more residents, tourism and the York State Fair, local governments, and personal protective equipment.

The county will also use some of the funding for a feasibility study to determine whether the county should establish its own health bureau.

The YCEA is a member of an economic task force the county commissioners started to respond to the economic impact of COVID-19, and some of the funding categories came out of recommendations from the task force.

York County Economic Alliance President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Schreiber and Downtown Inc CEO Silas Chamberlin, right, talk with the media during a press conference at PeoplesBank Park announcing an alliance between the two organizations Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

Kevin Schreiber, president and CEO of the YCEA, said York County is fortunate that Lancaster County was one of eight counties in the state to receive its funding directly from the federal government, meaning their county officials got a head start distributing funds.

"We can look to them to emulate processes and learn from their mistakes and learn from their successes, and not reinvent the wheel," he said.

More:Study: 30% of York County businesses could fail in coronavirus fallout

More:Downtown Inc., YCEA offering $25k in grants to small businesses in York City