A total of 22 small businesses in Williams County received financial assistance through the recently completed Williams County Small Business Grant Program.

The program provided Williams County small businesses with some monetary relief from business expenses due to business interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible small businesses were able to apply for up to $5,000 in grant funds to be used for qualifying expenses. The county allotted a pool of $150,000, and the program received 60 applications, disbursing $95,479.66 to the 22 local businesses, according to Williams County Emergency Management Agency Director Apryl McClaine, who helped manage the program along with County Commissioner Terry Rummel.

Applications were received through Oct. 15, and awards were received by mid-December, with Rummel personally delivering many of them, he said.

Rummel, a local businessman (he confirmed he did not apply for or receive a grant), said he is sensitive to the struggles of small businesses during the pandemic and thanked his fellow commissioners for supporting the program.

Grant distributions ranged between $1,000 and the maximum $5,000.

Rummel said he heard from some businesses that the application process was detailed and time-consuming, due to federal requirements, but said the county provided as much information and guidance as possible. Overall, he termed it a success.

“It’s something we felt was important, offering some help to our local businesses. I think it’s a win for Williams County,” he said.

McClaine agreed. “I’m glad we were able to fund the 22 small businesses through this program,” she said, adding that several of the recipients personally thanked her for the program and her efforts.

NEW BILL

Rummel also said he hoped local businesses in need would take advantage of the newly passed coronavirus relief bill that provides $284 billion in loans for small businesses.

The loans are part of the new $900 billion coronavirus relief and stimulus package President Trump signed into law Sunday. Among its provisions is an extension of this past spring’s Paycheck Protection Program, releasing about $284 billion in new forgivable, federally backed loans for ailing small businesses.

Last year’s initial program, overseen by the U.S. Department of Treasury and Small Business Administration, loaned about $525 billion to more than 5 million recipients. But businesses also complained about the numerous loopholes and liabilities that raised countless issues throughout an already complex process.

Some aspects of the new aid package are generally the same as the first one, including that applicants have between eight and 24 weeks to use the funds, with at least 60% going toward payroll and the rest toward eligible expenses like rent and utilities.

But the new round of federal loans is capped at $2 million each, compared to $10 million before. And applicants now must claim no more than 300 employees, versus up to 500 before. In addition, applicants must demonstrate at least a 25% drop in revenues from the fourth quarter of 2019 versus the same period this year.

One notable aspect of the new bill that’s not directly tied to new loans is an expansion of the employee retention tax credit, which was an aspect of the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act that encouraged employers not to shed jobs.

Originally, businesses that got federal Paycheck Protection Program loans were not eligible to claim that employee retention tax credit. Now they are, which can be seen as a plus in light of a December survey from the National Federation of Independent Business that one in four small business owners reported they would have to close their doors for good in the next six months if current economic conditions don’t improve.

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