The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to fund a state-sponsored relief grant program designed to help small businesses in the unincorporated areas of Yuma County that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In doing so, county staff members have been given authorization to execute an Executive Services Agreement with Local Arizona First Foundation to contribute $200,000 to Gov. Doug Ducey’s recently created $10 million Arizona Small Business Rent and Mortgage Relief grant fund.

The money is being allocated from the county’s general fund contingency budget.

Under the program, any city or county government with funds available can contribute to the relief fund, with the money being granted to eligible small businesses within their jurisdictions.

“We are not looking to put together a program to give out money,” Chairman Tony Reyes said before the vote. “I believe that this is one real way we can support some of these businesses that are going to be in a situation they can’t handle.”

Eligible businesses include gyms, fitness centers and studios, bars, water parks, movie theaters and others impacted by the governor’s 2020-43 executive order.

These grants cover up to two months of rent and mortgage payments due by small businesses, with a maximum award of $25,000.

Grants will be prioritized for businesses with fewer than 50 current employees that are most in need of the funding to meet their rent or mortgage obligations, and do not have access to other financial support.

Deputy Administrator Ian McGaughey, during a 45-slide PowerPoint presentation given during Wednesday’s meeting, informed supervisors that the demand for financial assistance from businesses throughout the state was so overwhelming that the application process to receive funds from the program was closed within a week.

As a result, only three businesses in the unincorporated areas of Yuma County were able to apply. Even though the application process has closed, the county can still contribute to the relief fund.

McGaughey added that since the county did not have a business license program, it has been difficult to ascertain how many businesses here have been impacted.

However, using lists provided by the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp., as well as Google maps, the county has determined that there are only a handful of businesses in Yuma County that are eligible for funds.

“It appears Executive Order 2020-43 had a greater impact on cities than on unincorporated areas, at least in Yuma County,” McGaughey said.

County staff, according to McGaughey, also looked at several other options as a way for the Board of Supervisors to provide financial assistance, including a program by the Western Arizona Economic Development District (WAEDD).

The WAEDD is expected to receive close to $1 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for a revolving loan fund to assist businesses in Yuma, La Paz and Mojave Counties.

The downside to contributing to the program is whatever money the county allocates to it may be distributed to businesses in La Paz and Mojave counties, instead of ones in Yuma. Also, any unused funds are not returned.

McGaughey said the county also has an existing Economic Development Incentive Program that allows for financial support for businesses on a case-by-case basis.

“Businesses may apply for this assistance, and if appropriate criteria is met, the application is brought to the board for consideration for funding,” McGaughey said.

To be eligible, a business must have either expanded employment in a vital sector or generated infrastructure that benefited Yuma County.

Since the coronavirus began, Yuma County has provided 121 agencies, including 72 schools, with 970,202 pieces of personal protective equipment.

James Gilbert can be reached at jgilbert@yumasun.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.

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