What is the status of the Greenville County Cares Program? Greenville County is the facilitator for the federal CARES Act money to businesses, nonprofits, housing authorities, public schools and other entities. The funding is to provide relief to those organizations that have suffered financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How is the money being advertised and spent? Governments don’t like to move fast, y’all. (I served on Greenville City Council for 12 years — we never needed any coaching to slow down.) Impressively, the county set up an easy-to-use website and keeps the information updated weekly. The sections are clear: “Who Qualifies?” and “How Can Funds Be Used?” In addition, all grant recipients and the grant amounts to the penny are listed and updated weekly. (Public money requires full transparency.)
How big is the total funding to date? The total amount issued as of Nov. 30 is $68,845,767.60 (to the penny!). Grant opportunities are from July 1 and potentially closing Dec 30. At this time last year we did not even know the term “social distancing,” so it has been a yeoman’s job to facilitate this large amount of public money effectively. County Council Member Liz Seman states, “I’m thankful that the county was able to invest CARES Act dollars to so many small businesses, minority businesses and nonprofits as they are the heart of our community. Their recovery is vital to our community’s recovery.”
Where are some the big grants going? You’ve read about a lot of the funding allocation previously. Some new funding additions are $1,057,203 for Greenville Transit Authority for new fare boxes in the buses. Older shelters will be updated with hand-washing stations, keeping riders safe and drivers safe.
How about schools? Greenville County Schools was issued $5 million for the meal program. Recently, the District 1 PTA was given $980,000 to purchase additional school and art supplies, Chromebooks and personal protective equipment.
What about nonprofits? Not surprisingly, the largest portion of CARES money has been issued to nonprofits through the Public and Community Health Grant. One new recipient was Mental Health America Greenville in partnership with NAMI, the Phoenix Center and Prisma Health for the Crisis Helpline expansion, for a total of $5,406,664. For smaller nonprofits, there is a nonprofit grant section, and a second round of nonprofit funding became available Dec. 11. Grants will be for COVID-related expenses, both reimbursable and projected, with the maximum grant being $25,000.
What about small businesses? The hit to small businesses is very real. Over 4,900 have applied; 1,200 grants have been approved. Hundreds are in process. Small businesses (including minority business and nonprofits) with one to five employees are eligible for up to $5,000; those with six to 50 employees may apply for up to $10,000 in reimbursement. The 23-page list of small businesses includes your local hairdresser or retailer who may have applied for and received assistance. This (hopefully) has saved many small businesses at the heart of our community from closing their doors.
So how are small businesses using the money? Jackie Blackwell is the owner of Paris Mountain Marketing, a marketing firm whose services include building websites and social media development. She applied for and received $5,000. She “used it to offset rent costs when going into the office wasn’t the safest option for us.” She also purchased additional computers and and phones to perform client duties while working remotely.
Leah Harvey and her husband, Tom, own several Subway sandwich restaurants. They applied for and received the full amount of the Small Business grant, and Leah said it has been incredibly helpful. “We have a commercial loan, and were able to use it to cover those payments for a couple of months. Every penny counts when sales are down and the future is unknown.” They did not have to lay off any employees even when they closed for six weeks. They personally covered payroll so their employees would not go without a check.
Think about that.
Let’s remember that where we spend our money makes a difference to small businesses.
To check out the grant funding information and recipients to date, visit the CARES website at greenvillecounty.org/gccares.
Amy Ryberg Doyle served for 12 years on Greenville City Council. She is married and has four children. An outdoors enthusiast, she likes to bike, swim and run, but not all in that order. She power-naps daily.