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COVID-19 relief funding is untouched

WINTON – An initial wave of 68 individual applications for Hertford County’s Small Business COVID-19 Relief Funding Program has resulted in zero appropriations.

At their meeting here last week, the county’s Board of Commissioners were informed that of the total number of applications, 65 came from businesses within Hertford County, but none met all the criteria necessary to qualify for the funding.

“There were approximately 19 applications that submitted most of the [required] information, but the evidence of profitability actually showed they were operating at a loss prior to the [start of the COVID-19] pandemic,” County Manager David Cotton told the board.

The program, which draws its funding from the CARES Act, assists Hertford County-based small businesses that are experiencing financial difficulties such as mandated shutdowns, employee layoffs, and operating losses as a result of ongoing efforts of the federal, state and local authorities to contain and minimize the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The maximum grant is $10,000 per small business with no repayment required.

Cotton said he will sent a spreadsheet to each of the commissioners detailing all of the criteria approved by the board as well as notes on each of the applicants that includes what criteria they met and what they failed to meet.

Other than showing an operating loss prior to the start of the pandemic, another item that served as a barrier for some of those making an application was whether or not a business was past due in paying their property taxes.

“There were 16 that owed us taxes,” Cotton said. “Of those 16, 14 owed multiple years dating back to 2010. My recommendation today is to automatically disqualify those who owe back taxes.”

Cotton said he needs guidance on how to move forward with the application process at this point, stressing that the deadline for this particular pot of money is Dec. 31. The county was awarded a shade over $265,000 to assist those businesses that experienced difficulty remaining in operation due to financial issues caused by the pandemic.

“We could go back and contact the others, the ones not owning any past due taxes, and make them aware of the information they did not provide on their applications,” Cotton suggested.

“This board has already approved the criteria; the applicants must follow the criteria, follow the process that guides them through applying for these funds,” said board chairman Ronald Gatling.

Last month, based on guidance from Commissioner Leroy Douglas, Cotton said he streamlined the grant program’s guidelines.

Under requirements and qualifications, Cotton said a profit/loss statement has been deleted and simply inserted the need for a statement on how the business has been impacted financially by COVID-19.

Cotton also deleted the 25 percent decline in revenue threshold; instead saying that a business only has to show a revenue loss of any amount.

In the financial documents requirements of the program, Cotton deleted the dates of March through September of 2019 and 2020.

The NAICS code requirement has been removed from the application, as have the monthly sales revenues for the months of January through September, 2020.

“What that basically leaves you is a statement of how a business has been impacted, a copy of a business’s lease or mortgage, proof that your city and county taxes are paid, proof that you are in good standing with the Secretary of State, and your most recent completed tax return for 2019,” Cotton said at the Nov. 2 commissioners meeting. “The business qualifications remain the same.”

Those qualifications include that the business is located in Hertford County with annual revenue of $2.5 million or less; has 100 employees or less; is locally owned and independently operated; has experienced a decline in revenues due to COVID-19; has not filed for bankruptcy; does not have any open tax liens; and does not have current open judgments.

Businesses that have been operating for one year or less and have filed a 2019 tax return and also meet all other eligibility criteria are eligible to apply.

Businesses that have already received COVID-19 related financial assistance from either the state, federal or local governments are eligible to apply for the Hertford County Small Business COVID-19 Relief Funding Program.

For more information about the program, contact the Hertford County Manager’s office at 252-358-7805.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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