OSWEGO — Labette County commissioners on Monday discussed how $331,000 in grant and local funds will be distributed in the coming months to businesses struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioners discussed the recently announced Community Development Block Grant funding with Jim Zaleski, city of Parsons economic development director, and Laura Moore, Parsons community development director, for about 45 minutes. Zaleski and Moore will visit with Parsons city commissioners on Thursday.

The city and county each received $132,000 in grant funding. The county is also adding in about $67,000 left from a 1999 business loan program.

Applications should be available on the county’s and city’s websites by Friday, along with on social media. The applications will be available through July 8. Aug. 7 will be the last day to submit an application for funding.

The grant money will be distributed to three sizes of companies: sole proprietorships, small businesses with one to five employees and larger companies with six to 50 employees. Businesses across the state and nation struggled through stay-at-home orders that required them to close or reduced their customer base.

Under the CDBG grant, businesses must spend their money first before seeking reimbursement from grant funds overseen by Moore and Zaleski. They also must show receipts to get reimbursed. These businesses must have at least 51% of their employees in the low- to moderate income category to qualify for funding, and employees therefore must provide income information before any money is distributed. 

Zaleski said businesses that received payroll protection funding, unemployment assistance or economic injury disaster loans may apply, but their applications will be held until businesses that did not receive those benefits apply and receive funding. These held applications would be considered at the Aug. 7 deadline.

To qualify for funding, businesses would have to be open or reopen by Aug. 7.

“It seems to me that a small business that’s struggling might not have the capital to reopen unless they get some help. That being said, I would hate to spend money on a business that’s going to fail anyway,” Commissioner Doug Allen said, adding that he understood the businesses would have to spend the money first to seek reimbursement from grant funds.

Zaleski said the goal is to get funding out to businesses that need it as quickly as possible. 

At this time, Zaleski estimates that sole proprietorships may qualify for up to $3,000, small businesses (one to five employees) may qualify for up to $6,000 and the larger businesses with six to 50 employees may qualify for up to $9,000. Those numbers are based on an analysis looking at expected interest in the grant funding and the limited money available in the pool. The grant money that Parsons will receive will benefit Parsons businesses, along with half of the money from the 1999 countywide loan program. The county grant must benefit companies outside of Parsons.

Zaleski didn’t know how many companies would qualify and how many would apply for the funding. Grant amounts may be adjusted if money is left after grant applications are received. 

“Those numbers will be much more firm on July 8, because we’ll know how many applications we received and how many have been sent out,” Zaleski said.

Commissioner Lonie Addis thanked Moore and the city of Parsons for administering the county’s share of the grant for free. The Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission is administering some of these grants for other counties and it’s charging a reduced fee, he said.

“I think it deserves our appreciation that you would do this without cost for us,” Addis said.

Zaleski said this shows how the city and county work together on a project for the greater good. Plus not having to reduce grant funds for an administration fee makes more money available to businesses that need it.

 

In other matters, the commission:

— Agreed to allow four county departments to hire a limited number of employees. The county imposed a hiring freeze because of the pandemic. On Monday, commissioners agree to allow Public Works to fill two of its vacancies, the treasurer’s office to fill one, the jail to fill one and the 911 dispatch center to fill one.

— Agreed on a 2-1 vote to order a computer console for the Parsons Police Department costing $5,043.55 from 911 funds collected through taxes on phones in the county. The device allows the radio and dispatch phone system to work together. With the old console broken, the dispatchers are using older microphones and the system isn’t recording calls correctly. Commissioner Allen voted no because he thinks there should be a unified dispatching center in the county rather than having two. The county dispatches for the sheriff, community police departments (Oswego, Altamont, Chetopa), fire departments and the ambulance service. Parsons dispatchers dispatch for Parsons police.

— Met in closed session to discuss non-elected personnel.

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