Utah entities are stepping up to the plate to address concerns for local economies during the coronavirus pandemic and recession.
Utah County officials launched a $15 million small business grant program for Utah County businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The program is administered through the Mountainland Association of Governments — which serves Wasatch, Summit and Utah counties.
The program is funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which allocated funds to local governments in an effort to support a variety of businesses, said Jessica DeLora, Mountainland Association of Governments’ community and economic development program manager.
“We think this program will largely impact businesses that are either struggling to stay open or have faced closures or have taken on a lot of expenses to promote social distancing and keep employees and customers,” she said.
The Utah County COVID-19 Economic Recovery Committee will allocate the $15 million in funds into several grants up to $20,000 per establishment for businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees. The maximum amount for each grant is dependent on the number of full-time employees businesses have.
The committee will begin accepting applications on Monday through an online portal, DeLora said. The Utah County COVID-19 Economic Recovery Committee will then review and rank applications before allocating funds.
“This program puts federal funding to work for small businesses impacted by COVID-19, helping to ensure they can keep their doors open and put critical protections in place for their workers and their customers,” Lehi Mayor and committee chair Mark Johnson said in a statement.
Any money businesses receive through the grant can be used to pay for COVID-19-related expenses, she said, including payroll, rent or mortgage, utilities and insurance.
Additionally, funds obtained through the program can reimburse businesses for unforeseen costs, such as social-distancing modifications to the workplace, providing employees and customers with masks, creating hand-sanitization centers, and supporting teleworking.
“We anticipate that it will have a pretty positive impact on the community during this really difficult time,” DeLora said. “We hope it will keep businesses open, keep people employed, and it will create a safe environment for businesses to operate in.”
The online portal will continue to accept applications until 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 10. The Utah County COVID-19 Economic Recovery Committee will take the rest of August to review applications and funds will begin to be released to businesses in early September, she said.
In order to qualify, businesses must be located in Utah County and have been licensed with the county by March 1, 2019. Additionally, the business must be able to show a significant negative impact resulting from the coronavirus pandemic by providing documentation of a financial loss of at least $5,000 or a 15% loss of profit between March 16 and June 30.
Businesses that receive funding through the Mountainland Association of Governments also must be open or plan to reopen as of the date of application submission, must be able to spend the entire grant by Dec. 31, and must have the ability to document and report on use of funds.
Utah County businesses that received assistance through other CARES act programs — such as the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan, Utah COVID-19 Commercial Rental Assistance Program, or other federal, state or local financial aid programs — are eligible for the Utah County CARES Small Business Grant Program.
DeLora said the Mountainland Association of Governments has tried to keep the application process as simple as possible for qualifying businesses to submit an application and participate in the program.
“Families across the county depend on small businesses for their livelihood, and the Utah County CARES Small Business Grant program will create a strong foundation for the County’s long-term economic recovery,” Johnson said in a statement.
The Mountainland Association of Governments does not have an estimate of how many businesses will be awarded grants at this time.
The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development also has created two new programs with CARES Act funding to help businesses statewide.
The Shop In Utah and Safe In Utah programs — or the COVID-19 Impacted Businesses Grant Program and the COVID-19 PPE Support Grant Program — are federally funded initiatives meant to provide continued support to businesses with 250 or fewer full-time employees.
The agency allocated $25 million to the Shop In Utah initiative that provides grants to businesses that were adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Businesses that are granted funds must use at least 50% of the money to offer discounts, coupons or other offers to their customers in an effort to kickstart the circulation of money throughout the state’s economy.
Likewise, the Safe In Utah program used $5 million in federal funds to provide grants to Utah businesses.
These grants are meant to help the businesses purchase personal protective equipment, implement workplace redesigns that promote social distancing, create additional signage, or implement new technology solutions for teleworking. The Safe In Utah program began accepting applications on July 20.
The Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development is administering the funds for both programs at the request of the Utah Legislature.