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Small business in Will County can now apply for County's CARES Act funding

By Rex Robinson | 8/24/2020, 6 a.m.
Small business owners and farmers impacted by COVID-19 in Will County can now apply for financial assistance administered by the ...

Small business owners and farmers impacted by COVID-19 in Will County can now apply for financial assistance administered by the county. The county began accepting applications for the funding from small businesses an farmers on Monday. Applications will be accepted through the end of September. Applicants can apply for up to $15,000 in assistance through the Small Business Assistance Grant Program.

"The pandemic has devastated many small businesses in Will County, and I urge these businesses to take advantage of this assistance," said Will County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan. "These grants can be used for operating expenses like utilities, rent, or the purchase of personal protective equipment for employees."

The grants are made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Through the CARES Act, Will County has $24.1 million in grants available for small businesses. Small business owners should go to www. willcountyillinois.com/CARES-Act for more information and instructions on applying for grants.

Local governments in Will County were recently able to begin applications for assistance administered by the county. Non-profits will be eligible to submit applications in the coming week.

Will County, like all counties in Illinois and throughout the country, received a substantial amount of federal money to assist non-profit organizations and small businesses to local governments, farms, homeless shelters and food pantries adversely impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security (CARES) Act, an economic stimulus package totaling more than $2 trillion was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27.

The amount of money disbursed to each county was based on population. Will County’s portion of the funding totaled more than $120.5 million based on a population of 690,743.

It’s important to note that those population figures are based on the 2010 Census. The Census is taken every 10 years in the US so the federal government can get an understanding of population numbers in every community. The numbers in these communities help the government determine where federal funds go and how much of those funds should be spent in a county. This information is based on population. The COVID-19 pandemic in Will County is an example of why it’s important to make sure when the 2020 Census forms are received at the homes of Will County residents they be filled out and sent back. The information can also be completed online.

Currently the 2020 Census campaign is underway in Will County to ensure all are counted in the 2020 Census. County officials are targeting the second week in September to start dispersing funds to qualified applicants, according to Will County board member Ken Harris, chairman of the board’s five-member Ad-Hoc CARES Act Committee. As of Wednesday morning, the county had received 118 requests for applications for the funding.

Since receiving the money, the county board has created the Ad-Hoc Committee, held a number of meetings designed to figure out how to disseminate the money, created a website and has even done an initial allocation of funds.

The latter breaks down as follows: $33,145,565 for the county, and the same amount to be distributed to all other taxing bodies in Will County, $24,105,865 for businesses and farms, $12,052,933 for designated for shelter/food/utilities support, and the same amount going into a miscellaneous fund, and the remaining $6,026,466 earmarked for non-profits.

The amount of money dispersed to each of the taxing bodies, which includes cities and villages, will be determined on a per capita basis; a formula used the state, which is based on population, according to Harris.

'We are doing our due diligence to ensure that these funds will go to the residents, business, and organizations that have the greatest needs.'

-Will County board member and CARES Act Committee Chairman Ken Harris (D-Bolingbrook)

Many other questions still remain as to how all that money will be spent and there are specific requirements for how the money can be used. Payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund can only be used to cover expenses that: are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19); were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020, for the State or government; and were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020, according to the Will County CARES Act web page.

As for helping the county figure out which organizations and businesses should receive the money, committee members plan to look to outside agencies and local governments - from the United Way of Will County and Will County Municipal League to area Chambers of Commerce and local governments.

Local governments, according to committee member and Will County board member Jim Moustis (R-Frankfort), would be a great help to the county in at least one area.

“Municipalities could assist us with small businesses,” he said at a recent committee meeting. “They know from their sales taxes and are much more attuned to their businesses.”

Harris said the county has made great progress in taking the proper steps to distribute the money.

“We are doing our due diligence to ensure that these funds will go to the residents, business, and organizations that have the greatest needs,” Harris said. “The policy decisions that have been made will greatly assist the County Executive and staff to implement a program that is efficient and transparent.”

The County’s top priority, he added, is to disburse the funds in a responsible and expeditious manner. “Given the requirements of the use of these funds, the County is ultimately responsible for these funds and we must get it right,” he said.

While it seems the wheels of government are moving slowly to get the money out to those in need, Harris said county officials have checked and found that other surrounding collar counties are “in the same boat” in that they all have to make sure it is done properly and that takes some time.

On the county’s website, willcountyillinois.com is a tab labeled CARES Act, which features details how to apply for the funding, eligibility requirements and other information related to how the county will disperse the money.

On the web page is a letter from interim County Executive Denise Winfrey and Cowan. “It is the intent of the Will County Board and the Will County Executive’s Office to share these funds where they are most needed in the local communities. We are reaching out to residents, local businesses, nonprofit organizations, and local governments to offer an opportunity to apply for funding to help offset the economic impacts of COVID-19.”

The page will be updated regularly to provide additional information about eligibility, and instructions for application/submission for reimbursement.

Those interested in receiving CARES Act funding through the county can visit

https://www.willcountyillinois.com/CARES-Act/Registration.