Richmond County administrator Morgan Quicke unveiled a breakdown of how the $787,000 in CARES Act funding will be spent. But he noted that the numbers are “probably fluid” as they’re based on guesses of what local needs will be as it’s unclear what conditions will be in the fall when health authorities are warning that a second wave of the coronavirus is likely.
Small business grant program
The plan calls for the largest chunk of funds, $300,000, to be set aside for the Richmond County and Town of Warsaw Small Business Grant program, which will offer businesses between $750 and $5,000, based on the number employees, to help address the economic crisis that resulted from COVID-19.
Under the proposed terms, the program will be open to businesses that have operated in the town or county for at least six months and have a gross profit of $2 million or less annually. Applicants can have a maximum of 20 full-time employees or 40 total employees, and the program is open to sole proprietors and businesses that may conduct the bulk of their operations outside of county and town lines, such as barbers, concessionaires and watermen.
Grants will be awarded by a seven-person grant committee that will include one county supervisor, one county employee, one Warsaw council member, one Warsaw employee, two members of the IDA and the president of Warsaw-Richmond County Chamber of Commerce.
Businesses must be in good tax standing with the state, county and town because the CARES Act prohibits monies from being used to help businesses pay current or delinquent taxes to localities, Quicke explained.
Applicants must have documentation to prove they’re operating a legitimate business. Those in Warsaw must have an up-to-date and active business license, and all applicants must be in good standing with local, state and federal codes. The intention behind linking code compliance to the funding is that it “gives the town and the county the latitude to be able to work with any properties that are currently in non-compliance to be able to withhold funds until they become compliant,” Quicke said, adding he’s hopeful that this will be an uncommon situation.
Applicants must certify that their business experienced negative impact related to the pandemic, and they’ll have to answer questions covering topics ranging from descriptions about products and services to intentions about hiring and rehiring employees.
There are inquiries about whether applicants received EIDL or PPP loans or any local grants or incentives within the past two years. Businesses that have aren’t disqualified from applying, said Quicke. Rather, the information could be used as a consideration for awarding the grants if the number of applicants approaches the $300,000 mark. “If and only then, do I anticipate the grant committee taking into account previous grant awards,” he said.
There’s also an inquiry about whether a business is certified SWaM (small, women and minority). Asked whether there is any concern that posing such a question may raise alarm among minority applicants given the current environment and the fact that the grant committee will be composed mostly or wholly of white members, Quicke said he certainly hopes that’s not the case.
“I believe the Richmond County Board of Supervisors, the Warsaw Town Council and the Richmond County IDA, all have a great reputation dealing with all segments of the county population in a fair and equitable way, which we fully intend to continue, not only with this program but with all actions we take,” he said. Furthermore, he said the county will be transparent about where this funding goes, providing updates throughout the process.
The grants will be awarded based on receipts and documentation of spending for the previous three months, including payroll, rent, inventory, utilities, or other hard costs. The county will use that information to confirm a business’ need.
Richmond County Public Schools
Probably one of the hardest functions of county government throughout the pandemic is the operations of the public school system, Quicke noted in his overview. So, the second largest allotment of $125,000, will go to cover those costs.
The closure of schools, virtual learning, meals programs, additional safety and cleaning measures and the requirements for reopening this fall all will lead to unexpected costs that ensure students, staff and parents are as safe as possible, Quicke noted.
RCPS share will be allotted on a reimbursement basis, requiring the school to submit its receipts or documentation before the funds are released so the county can ensure the spending complies with the CARES Act.
Quicke’s plan calls for $75,000 to help local non-profit organizations. The county hasn’t started working on the breakdown or process for distributing these funds but Quicke hopes to hammer out those details at the July board of supervisors meeting.
He anticipates the focus will be on awarding money to groups that lost revenue over the past three months due from factors such as closings, limited activities, cancelled events and programs they’ve run to help the community, such as the Warsaw-Richmond Main Street Program’s Coronabux initiative, which offered gift card giveaways to support local businesses.
Town of Warsaw
Towns are entitled to a portion of the CARES Act funds, and Richmond County has carved out $65,000 for Warsaw. The state calculated the county’s allotment based on a rate of $87.24 per resident. In turn, Richmond County used the same rate but is paying the town for half of its population.
The primary reason for issuing the funds based on half of the population is because the town and county are partnering on the grant program and the county believes the majority of businesses are in Warsaw. So, the other 50 percent of their funding is included in that program, Quick explained.
Town manager Joseph Quesenberry said Warsaw plans to spend its money on items, such as adding protective screening in the Town Office and items for the police. He told the town council he has had discussions with Warsaw police chief Joanie Kent about a camera that scans a person face from seven feet away, takes their temperature and keeps their facial profile. If the town has large-scale events we could scan people and use it let only those who aren’t running a temperature, he said.
Warsaw’s money will also be issued on a reimbursement basis, allowing the county to manage its compliance. Quicke informed the board of supervisors that Quesenberry has requested the county consider covering any eligible coronavirus-related costs exceeding the $65,000.
Overtime, staffing and compensation
The county has set aside $50,000 for personnel-related costs. During the pandemic there will be increased costs for county operations including public safety, the courts, county administration, social services and maintenance, Quicke noted.
Since March, some county employees’ duties have significantly shifted toward COVID-19. Their hours will be tracked and the federal funds will be used to offset a portion of their salaries and to cover overtime that the county is seeing from the likes of EMS, social services and the sheriff’s department.
The plan allots $47,000 for the county’s partners, such as Northern Neck Regional Jail, Middle Peninsula Juvenile Detention Center and the Planning District Commission. The plan for distributing these funds hasn’t been worked out yet. Therefore, this is just a placeholder for now, Quicke noted.
Cleaning and cleaning supplies
Richmond County currently has $40,000 allotted to cleaning and sanitation. In addition to an increased use in supplies, the county has also hired Service Master to clean the courts and EMS on a regular schedule.
Another $40,000 is being made available for technology and IT purchases the county has already made and further improvements that will facilitate virtual meetings and work-from-home arrangements. This includes the plan to buy more laptops and tablets for employee use.
PPE and supplies
Currently, the county is devoting $30,000 to virus-related protection. These funds will primarily be devoted to EMS and the sheriff’s office along with the courts to cover past spending and to help ensure safe operation though the end of the year when spending of the CARES funding must be cut off.
Facility and workspace improvements
Finally, $15,000 is being made available for steps to protect citizens and employees as the county reopens. This includes time and materials to ensure offices and workspaces are properly protected and distanced. The county has already moved to add protective barriers in the Commission of Revenue and Circuit Court clerk’s offices, and there are plans to do the same in the County Administrator’s and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s offices.
“We’re going to be liberal with money and we’re going to use it as we can, but we’re not going to make any decisions that are on the fence on big spending items that the county could potentially be on the hook for. If the federal government has any questions about our expenditures, we’re going to be able to justify them 100 percent,” Quicke to the board.
Because the CARES funding accounts for more than 1 percent of the county’s approved FY21 budget, a public hearing must be held to appropriate the money into the budget. It’ll be held July 9 at 9 a.m.