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York County OKs allotment plan for $14 million in CARES Act cash

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

The York County Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved the first phase of the CARES Act funding allocation process, setting aside $14 million with a focus on small businesses, restaurants and not-for-profits.

The grants will make up roughly 35% of the $40.5 million the county received in COVID-19 relief, all of which must be allocated by the end of the year. A system for distributing the remaining federal aid has yet to be finalized.

Commissioners on Wednesday voted to make available $10 million for small businesses and restaurants and $4 million for nonprofits.

"We certainly know from the YoCo Strong Recovery Task Force report that our small businesses, our restaurants and our nonprofits have been hit very, very hard by this pandemic," said President Commissioner Julie Wheeler.

More:Coronavirus pandemic: Here's what York County's data looks like

More:Closer Look: Big York County firms ate up bulk of PPP funds

The York County Economic Alliance, a private organization, has been chosen to help advertise, conduct outreach, process applications and oversee the relief program, known as the YoCo Strong Resource Fund.

YCEA President Kevin Schreiber on Wednesday announced the organization would partner with Community First Fund to bring in more resources for outreach and application processing.

However, commissioners will ultimately choose and award businesses that apply. Wheeler emphasized that commissioners will not be made aware of any business names when reviewing applications.

Although commissioners unanimously voted to approve the dollar amounts, Commissioner Ron Smith expressed concerns with how much money would be doled out to small businesses.

"I'd like to personally see more money given out front to the businesses," he said. 

"We have to get these people back to work. Get the employees back to work. Get the economy rolling again."

Smith instead proposed allocating an extra $5 million to small businesses, but eventually relented and supported the plan after Commissioner Doug Hoke said the county board could revisit additional funding in the future.

The YCEA has estimated that up to 30% of the county's local businesses could permanently close because of the economic impact of the pandemic.

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

The program will offer grants ranging from $10,000 to $35,000. Restaurants and nonprofits must employ no more than 75 full-time-equivalent workers, while small businesses must employ no more than 50.

In all cases, entities must have opened before Feb. 15 and be primarily stationed within the county. They also must have annual revenues of no more than $3 million.

The economic alliance has tentatively scheduled the opening of an application portal for the last week of August.

"We exist to do this type of work," Schreiber said. "We understand compliance for these grant programs. We understand the onerous and arduous task of ensuring compliance throughout the process."

Small businesses and restaurants will receive priority consideration if they have not already received COVID-19 relief aid. Businesses owned by minorities will also be prioritized, according to the plan.

That same prioritization criteria applies to nonprofits as well. Nonprofits that focus on certain areas, such as food and housing security, will benefit from priority status.

Any funds received must be used for costs such as payroll and health benefits. A list of all eligible uses can be found here.

Unlike the seven most populous counties in the state, York did not receive direct COVID-19 relief funding from the CARES Act that President Donald Trump signed into law in March because its population was less than 500,000.

Instead, it was one of the remaining 60 counties to have funding allocated by the state, which had $625 million to spread among those that did not receive direct aid.

As of Wednesday at noon, there were 2,223 cases of COVID-19 and 83 deaths linked to the disease in York County.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.