OGDEN — Nearly $10 million is to be provided to about 540 companies and nonprofit groups as part of the first distribution of an initiative to help Weber County businesses hit by the economic downturn.
“It will keep a lot of these companies open for at least another 90 days while things improve,” said Tom Christopulos, the director of community and economic development for Ogden.
Reps from some of the entities in line to get funding, just now receiving word, have expressed gratitude, said Weber County Treasurer John Bond, who’s helping review applications for grant funding. The money will help “a lot of small, small businesses catch their breath. That’s what we’re hoping. It’ll give a lot of people a sense of hope and continuity,” Bond said.
Ogden and Weber County are running separate but similar programs to help entities hit as restrictions on activity spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused the economy to sputter. They are called the Ogden CARES and Weber CARES business grant programs.
Christopulos said Tuesday that 70 business and nonprofit groups in Ogden, give or take, are in line to share about $2.6 million in grant money, coming thanks to the federal CARES Act. Bond said another 470 businesses within Weber County but outside Ogden and Harrisville, the coverage area of the county program, will share $7.34 million in grant funds, also coming thanks to the CARES Act.
Up to $35 million more may be available in all across Weber County, and the application process for the second of as many as three installments of the city and county programs starts next week. Weber County helped only businesses in the first round of the application process but plans to expand that to nonprofit organizations as part of the second round, Bond said. Harrisville, earmarked some $600,000, per the CARES Act initiative, is handling its own program.
The funding, up to $45 million in all, is meant to help businesses forced to close due to restrictions brought on by the pandemic or otherwise impacted along with nonprofit entities. Many restaurants and eateries scaled back or closed operations in the early stages of the pandemic starting last March, with Historic 25th Street, notably, experiencing a sharp reduction in activity. Likewise, beauty and nail salons, gyms and some other businesses had to shut, at least for a time, due to guidelines meant to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
One of the results was a spike in unemployment — from 3.1% in March in Weber County to 10.7% in April — though the jobless rate has since edged down and measured 5.3% in July, same as June, according to Utah Department of Workforce Services figures released Monday.
Officials launched an aggressive initiative to reach out to businesses to let them know of the grant funds, which don’t have to be paid back.
“Members of the City Council have walked the streets of Roy to bring attention to the need for business to consider applying for these grants. Honestly, when I handed business owners the information, some were quite surprised that the program even existed,” Roy Mayor Bob Dandoy said in a Facebook post. That said, he went on, there “is no question” many businesses suffered due to the pandemic and downturn.
South Ogden was the biggest recipient of help from the first phase of the Weber County initiative, according to figures compiled by Bond, with 121 entities to share $2.18 million. Next was Roy, 85 businesses sharing $1.19 million, and West Haven, where 43 businesses will share $653,000.
Officials would review financial records of applicants to confirm they were impacted by the downturn. Christopulos said some will also have to provide receipts confirming expenses that stemmed from the pandemic and downturn. Among the big issues for impacted firms have been keeping up with rent and utility payments and maintaining workers.
Many grants provided per the city initiative total less than $10,000 to smaller firms, Christopulos said, while a handful of larger entities are in line to get grants in the six figures. The average grant size was around $15,000 in the county program, which put a limit on grant amounts of $35,000.
“It’s going to have a significant impact on their ability to stay open and move forward,” Bond said.