Geary County business owners who have 50 employees or fewer and have made COVID-19 related purchases can potentially receive reimbursement for up to $3,000.

County Commissioner Brad Scholz and members of the Economic Development Commission met Thursday to discuss how to use SPARKS funding from the state to provide grants to small businesses.

“I didn’t necessarily trust the state on SPARK two and three getting businesses any type of monies,” he said. “That proved to be true for SPARK two because, yes they opened it up to business, but it limited the type of businesses that can apply for it.”

The goal of the commission was to allocated some of the money for the small businesses in the community. Some of which took a hard hit when the state forced them to close for several weeks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

When they reopened, many had added expenses of personal protective equipment and materials to make modifications in their businesses to meet physical distancing guidelines.

Scholz said the EDC was the obvious choice to team up with to get the word out and serve as a middle man for the application process.

The maximum grant amount is $3,000. It is to cover hard costs only. Mickey Fornaro-Dean, EDC director, described hard costs as purchases like PPE, plexiglass, floor markers, hardware or software necessary to process payments or other online services, and any other necessary COVID-related expenses.

To be eligible, the business owner must provide receipts for the purchases, she said.

“All we’re going to be acting as is the collector of the applications,” Fornaro-Dean said. “Then we’re going to be forwarding those on to Witt O’Brien’s. We will have no control over who gets (the money).”

Witt O’Brien’s is the Kansas City firm Geary County hired to help oversee the use of the federal dollars.

Fornaro-Dean said she expects the applications to be available by Thursday. However, she asks interested people to keep an eye on the website at https://www.jcgced.come and the EDC Facebook page because they will accept and turn in applications on a first-come first-serve basis.

When they are available, people who are interested in applying may pick up an application at the EDC office, 222 W. Sixth St. or call the office at 785-762-1976 to have one emailed to them.

Fornaro-Dean said, when EDC staff receives an application, they will review it. If they see anything missing, they’ll let the applicant know. When they have a complete application packet that appears to have all the necessary documentation, staff will then send it to Witt O’Brien’s who will give the final confirmation of the applicant’s eligibility. Witt O’Brien’s will then notify the EDC of the approval or denial.

“I’m very excited to be able to work with the county on this and I know the county is excited,” Fornaro-Dean said. “We want to help businesses … through this process but we just have to make sure that we get all of our documentation correct. These are the SPARK monies, which came from the feds down to the state. If we don’t document correctly, and we don’t get everything done correctly, then this community has to pay it back.”

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