MERCER – Although commissioners plan on helping area businesses with COVID relief money coming to the county, they are urging entrepreneurs to apply for other grants.

“There’s additional funding programs and people should apply directly to those,” Commissioner Matt McConnell said. “It’s like applying to college. You’re not going to apply to only one, but once you’re accepted from one, you withdraw your application from the others.”

There are eight federally-funded programs, totaling $225 million, in addition to the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant, distributing aid to small businesses. 

“All of these funding streams are available and if you have access to one of them through your legislator or you’ve seen an announcement, apply for it and maybe you’ll get it,” said John Logan, Mercer County fiscal administrator. “Whichever one says ‘yes’ first, then you take it. You have to sign that you will not get duplicate funding for the same costs.”

Small business owners can also apply for a grant from the county for a share of the county’s $9,881,956.45 CARES grant.

The grant is designed to help local governments cope with the pandemic’s economic impacts from March 1 through year’s end, and is scheduled to arrive July 15.

County officials can use the funding for direct COVID-19 response, assisting businesses and municipalities, providing behavioral health and substance use disorder services, funding nonprofit assistance programs or improving broadband internet coverage to unserved or underserved areas.

The county has to approve distribution of its funds by mid-November. Any grant money remaining at that time will be claimed by state authorities and redistributed to areas with greater needs.

Commissioners are developing a plan for allocating the money. But they want area businesses to be aware of other funding sources. 

“There’s a substantial amount of overlap and it depends on the way the actual legislation was written,” Logan said. “If you see a program that fits your need, apply for it, and if the county comes out later with a similar program, apply for it.”

However, he cautioned that businesses and agencies cannot accept funding for the same need from two different grant streams.

The reason for accepting a grant is for COVID-related purposes and that can be a really tough standard, Logan said.

For example, the county has people working extra hours for cleaning, which is specifically allowed, but the county could not spend the funding on the portion of Logan’s salary for the time he spent applying for CARES grants, even though it’s a cost related to the pandemic.

Logan said he has been working to make sure the county follows the CARES grant guidelines. He also wants to make sure that area businesses get the help they need.

“It’s something that I feel passionate about,” Logan said. “About using the opportunity for people in the area.” 

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