May 18, 2022
Government


Government

Kendall County Board faces tough choices in awarding COVID-19 relief grants to small businesses

County confronted with a case of supply and demand

Kendall County Board member Dan Koukol, right, presents small business COVID-19 grant requests to the board's economic development committee on Jan. 13. At left is board member Robyn Vickers. (Mark Foster mfoster@shawmedia.com)

YORKVILLE – It’s a simple case of supply and demand.

The Kendall County Board budgeted $2 million for a federal grant program designed to provide some relief to small business owners who lost revenues because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board and the county administration went to great lengths to get the word out to the business owners and now the demand appears to be outstripping the supply.

More than 200 business owners submitted applications for the program, and knowing that these requests could consume every penny of the $2 million, the administration had shut down the website application portal.

Board members hesitated Jan. 18 on approving the first nine grant applications, which had been reviewed and cleared by the administration and State’s Attorney’s Office, wondering if they should perhaps reduce the $25,000 maximum award in order ensure that more businesses would get a piece of the pie.

They went so far as to vote on tabling the nine requests and sending the entire grant program back to the Economic Development Committee for reconsideration on Jan. 28.

Voting yes were board members Scott Gengler, Matt Kellogg, Ruben Rodriguez and Robyn Vickers. Those voting no were board Chairman Scott Gryder and members Judy Gilmour, Dan Koukol and Amy Cesich.

Board members Elizabeth Flowers and Brian DeBolt were absent.

The tie vote meant that the proposal failed.

So, it was back to voting on the individual grant requests. Each was approved on a 6-2 vote, with Kellogg and Vickers voting no. The grants totaled more than $223,000.

Board members said they want to be fair to everyone and were finding that this will be difficult.

“I hate changing the rules halfway through,” said Koukol, the economic development committee chairman.

Now, the subject of the Jan. 28 committee meeting will be to determine if more money can be freed up to meet the demand.

“I know a lot of us were shocked at the amount” of applications, Cesich said. “I would say make the pot bigger.”

One thing all the board members seemed to agree upon was to reopen the portal, which was done later that same day, with a Feb. 23 deadline.

County Administrator Scott Koeppel said that business owners who had attempted to apply after the portal was shut down will receive an email advising them they may now gain access to the site.

The result will be even more applications for a program which has already reached its budgeted limit.

Koukol said he believes the board must find additional money to put into the small business grant program.

“I know we have some capital projects, but we’ve got to take care of our people,” Koukol said.

The county is receiving a total of $24 million in federal American Rescue Act Fund money to deal with the ramifications of the pandemic.

Much of the money is being used to clear up the backlog of criminal cases at the Kendall County Courthouse, buy an outreach van for the Kendall County Health Department, and make improvements at the jail and other county facilities to limit the spread of the virus.

The county has already awarded $440,000 to non-profit organizations serving Kendall residents and has more than $1.5 million still budgeted for this purpose.

Meanwhile, board members say they also are receiving requests from units of local government for assistance.

With the small business application portal reopened, enterprises with fewer than 50 employees and that meet statutory requirements under Section 3 of the Small Business Act may apply for the grant money.

The key qualifications for receiving a grant are that the business must be physically located within Kendall County, have operated during 2019 and 2020, have filed tax returns for those years and are currently open.

The businesses must demonstrate that they lost revenue, as shown through tax filings, because of the pandemic.

Grants covering 25% of lost revenues between 2019 and 2020, or a maximum of $25,000, may be awarded. The application page may be reached at https://kendallcounty.smapply.io/

Mark Foster

Mark Foster is a reporter for Kendall County Now, covering local government in Kendall County