The Alachua County website has been visited by thousands of local residents and small businesses looking to apply to the county's CARES Act grant program over the past two weeks.
The county has dispersed $310,000 to county residents through the grant program, said April Shuping, a partner at Carr, Riggs & Ingram, an accounting firm contracted by the county. At a Tuesday morning county commission meeting, the firm said more than $500,000 will be dispersed Aug. 31, the next distribution date. Money is dispersed to rant recipients on a weekly basis, she said.
Shuping said 4,415 individuals and 256 businesses have applied for the aid since applications opened on Aug. 4. Applications are processed on a rolling basis, she added. The county receives about 100 to 150 applications daily.
The grant program, funded with part of the $46.9 million the county received from the CARES Act, awards grant money to individuals or businesses who have faced economic hardship amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals can receive up to $2,500, while businesses can receive up to $15,000.
Applications are still open as the grant program has enough funding to award more than double its current applicant amount, she said. The average amount each resident has received is $2,125, she said. If application rates and funding amount remains consistent, it would take between 36 to 55 days to drain the $21.1 million grant fund, well within the CARES Act’s Dec. 31 deadline. After the deadline, state and local governments can no longer spend the money disbursed to them through the CARES Act.
County Manager Michele Lieberman said the county staff will be submitting recommendations to the county commission about how to handle a second round of grant funding on Sept. 1. The recommendations may include expanding the number of county residents that are eligible and increasing the amount of total awards each person can receive to $5,000, she said.
County Commissioner Mike Byerly asked Lieberman if previous applicants would be able to cash in if the reward amount is increased. She said the county has been collecting extra information from applicants to determine if they would be eligible for additional future money because county staff anticipated an increase in award money limit.
“We will automatically go ahead and issue them the additional funds if the commission ups the amount,” Lieberman said.