News10NBC Investigates: Hundreds of small businesses still waiting for county grant

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Hundreds of small businesses that were left out of the first round of pandemic-relief grants are still waiting for Monroe County to deliver on its promise that the second round of checks is in the mail.

When more than 2,000 businesses in Monroe County applied for the “Fast Forward Monroe” grants, the county bumped the initial $15 million allocation to $17 million but was still only able to approve 1,315 grants. That left about 700 local businesses who qualified but didn’t receive any money.

In February, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello told News10NBC he decided to allocate an additional $4 million in federal CARES Act funding to the Fast Forward Monroe program in order to be able to fulfill the applications that were initially rejected but many of those businesses say they still haven’t heard from the county.

Frank Vicaretti has owned his business, Local 2 U for eight years.

“We bring local products from local businesses to homes, offices, into retail stores, cafés and convenient stores… things like that,” he explained.

The pandemic has been tough so, when Monroe County offered this small business grant program last fall, he applied right away.

In late January, Vicaretti got a rejection letter.

“I saw the investigation that you did on it and there was other businesses that had the same template [rejection] letter if you will or email,” he said, referring to a previous News10NBC Investigation on the grant program.

Bello told News10NBC that since February, the county has awarded an additional 134 new grants, 138 applications are pending and
384 applications are in the process of being reviewed.

Vicaretti says every day counts.

“I understand there’s a lot of pressure on government today, they have so many things going on over and above their normal business that’s happening but really there was no communication,” Vicaretti said.

“We’re going through these grants as quickly as we can… We do have enough funding in place to be able to get through all of them so if they haven’t gotten to them yet… help is on the way,” Bello said.

This grant program was not re-opened for new applicants. Only those businesses that applied during the first round and were rejected are now being funded. When asked whether he would consider re-opening it or a second round of funding now that Monroe County is getting additional Stimulus money, Bello said it’s under consideration.