Monroe County adding another $4 million to fund all small business grant applicants

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: February 09, 2021 05:14 PM
Created: February 09, 2021 04:53 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Monroe County planned to use $15 million in CARES Act funding to offer grants to small businesses struggling through the pandemic but more than 2,000 local businesses applied and $15 million wasn’t nearly enough to reach them all.

Frustrated business owners who were denied started contacting News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke last week and when she started asking questions, the county decided to add money to the pot.  

When Monroe County Executive Adam Bello announced the “Fast Forward Monroe” grant program last fall, hundreds of small businesses applied within days. Many have been waiting since then to find out whether they were approved, how much they might get and most importantly, when the money will arrive. Last week, hundreds of rejection emails went out.

Dave Knapp owns Connect Works in Brockport.

“I do IT consulting, sever IT work, I travel a lot and when the pandemic hit, that came to a dead halt,” he told News10NBC.

Business hasn’t picked up so, when Monroe County offered the grant program back in October, Knapp jumped on it.

Last week he got a note from the county that said in part, “Unfortunately, you are receiving this email because the application you submitted was not funded.”

The email then went on to list the most common issues that caused applications to be denied which included incomplete information, past-due property taxes, outstanding judgments or tax liens.  

Knapp and a number of other small business owners who contacted News10NBC say those reasons do not apply to them.

“There were no issues with my DBA, my business, my property taxes, anything,” he said, “if they’re out of money they should just say they’re out of money.”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello says when more than 2,000 businesses applied for the money, the county bumped the initial $15 million allocation to $17 million. With the $17 million, they were able to approve 1,315 grants. Nearly half (49%) of the businesses receiving grants were in low or moderate-income zip codes. About 44% (582) of approved applications were from women-owned businesses and 25% (335) were from minority-owned businesses. Fourteen percent, or 181, were from businesses that were both women and minority-owned. About 58% (767) of companies identified themselves uniquely as diverse business enterprises.

That leaves about 700 local businesses who qualified for the grant but didn’t receive it, and that’s been bothering County Executive Bello, so he has decided to allocate an additional $4 million dollars in federal CARES Act funding to the program.

“The need is really tremendous and what we're going to be able to do is go back through the applications and those folks who did not receive it in the first round, we’ll be able to now work with those individuals to hopefully help them get the money,” he told News10NBC.

Only those who were rejected the first time around are being considered and Bello says the additional $4 million should cover all of them. Under the program, businesses were able to receive grants of up to $10,000 for businesses with zero to two full-time employees, $15,000 for businesses with three to five full-time employees and $20,000 for businesses with 26 to 50 full-time employees.  

For a breakdown of what type of businesses got the grants and where they are located, click here and here.

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