City officials hope that a deadline extension will spur more businesses to apply for COVID-19 relief grants.

Labette County and the city of Parsons received $132,000 each in a special disbursement of Community Development Block Grant funding. The county also has about $67,000 left from a 1999 business loan program that will be added to the grants. The money is allocated for reimbursement of expenses to help businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 50 businesses expressed interest in receiving grant money, but only 18 qualified businesses had applied before the July 8 deadline, Laura Moore, community development director, said. Eleven others applied but either weren’t eligible to receive funding or decided against it. Fifty-one businesses that expressed interest hadn’t responded to inquiries from the city as of Tuesday morning.

As a result of the low response, the city, which is overseeing distribution of the county’s money also, has extended the deadline. Previously, businesses had until July 8 to request an application and until Aug. 7 to submit it. Now, they have until Aug. 7 to request an application and submit it. Applications are available at parsonsks.com. Anyone with questions can call Moore or Jim Zaleski, economic development director, at the city offices, 421-7030.

“I just want to make sure that all of the businesses have an opportunity to take advantage of this program,” Moore said.

Some businesses that applied weren’t eligible because they already received funding from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Others didn’t qualify because they exceeded the economic threshold required by the CDBG program. At least 51% of their employees’ must have low to moderate household incomes. 

Businesses must show receipts on expenses from March 1 until the application is submitted on rent or mortgage, utilities or payroll to be reimbursed with a grant. Zaleski said some businesses that received Payroll Protection Loans can also receive CDBG funding to reimburse on payroll, as long as it’s not for the same time period.

Zaleski said he would hate to just give a certain amount to the 18 businesses that applied and then give the rest of the city’s and county’s money back to the state.

“We want to make sure this money stays local. We want to make sure it goes to the businesses that need it,” Zaleski said.

A couple of businesses decided not to apply because they thought other businesses were in more need of assistance. Now, Zaleski encourages those businesses to apply.

Some business owners may have decided they didn’t want to make their employees fill out household income information forms, perhaps because they feared that information would become public. Moore said the income information remains confidential. Even the business owner can refrain from seeing it by placing folded forms in an envelope and turning it into the city.

“I would stress that to them. We can keep that confidential,” Moore said.

“We don’t want people to be afraid of that,” Zaleski added.

Moore said some businesses may have just missed the deadline, and she hopes they apply now. She hopes those who expressed interest in the program but have now decided against it will reply to her so she can quit emailing them.

Zaleski said some of the sole proprietors, such as beauticians, may not have applied because businesses need a DUNS (data universal numbering system) number, but those are quick and easy to obtain.

Moore and Zaleski said they will help any business owner in whatever they can, and Moore eventually will meet with each applicant to make sure all of the forms are completed correctly.

“We don’t want any of the potential paperwork to scare anybody away from getting the funding they need,” Zaleski said.

The county’s share of the money can be given to any business in the county, while the city’s share must go to businesses in Parsons.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were seven applicants for county funding, including five sole proprietors, one business with one to five employees and one with six to 50 employees. The city had 11 applications, five from sole proprietors, four from businesses with one to five employees and two from businesses with six to 50 employees.

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