Lawrence chamber of commerce to host virtual meetings on how businesses can apply for CARES funding

photo by: Jackson Barton/Journal-World File Photo

The Douglas County Courthouse and downtown Lawrence are pictured in an aerial photo Saturday, July 13, 2019.

Douglas County will soon receive nearly $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief, and the local chamber of commerce this week is hosting webinars to explain how businesses can apply for some of that funding.

Steve Kelly, the chamber of commerce’s vice president for economic development, said the events will also provide background information on the federal aid funding and answer questions businesses may have about it.

In total, the county expects to get about $24.9 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as CARES. Prior to receiving those funds, the county must craft a plan for how the funds will be spent, which is due to the state in August. To make those decisions, the county put together a coordinating team, which includes representatives for education, housing, medical services, the local economy and other areas affected by the pandemic.

Kelly is serving on the team’s economic work group. He said businesses that apply for funding to address public health and safety issues — such as purchasing personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, and other safety measures — may be more likely to receive funding. But when asked if businesses could apply for funds to use toward payroll assistance or other economic issues, he said the work group doesn’t want to limit the areas where funding can be used because it is interested in hearing what businesses believe needs to be addressed.

“We want people or companies to express what their needs are,” Kelly said. “It might be they put in for PPE and also be looking for support in other ways, and I think they can certainly list those and identify those.”

Kelly said the economic work group is developing guidelines that will help it evaluate businesses’ funding applications.

“I don’t think we are going to try to limit it and say, ‘This is what you can apply for,'” Kelly said. “If they feel (something) is a valid use, then they are going to have the ability to look at the guidelines to see where it might fit on a scaled priority.”

Kelly said the businesses’ funding applications could also be useful because the state will have more relief funding to spend in the future. He said the state’s SPARK task force is expected to provide a “round two” of COVID-19 aid later this year, and the list of needs businesses come up with for the county’s $25 million may be more applicable for the second round of funding.

“This gives folks an opportunity to flesh out … what assistance will be helpful for them,” Kelly said.

The chamber’s webinars are scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday and 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Links to access the virtual meetings can be found on the chamber’s CARES information website,

According to the coordinating team’s timeline, the deadline to submit funding applications is Aug. 3. The coordinating team is expected to provide an initial CARES funding plan to the County Commission on Aug. 5. The commissioners are then expected to consider final approval of the plan on Aug. 12.

Related coverage:

• July 18, 2020 — Douglas County puts team together to decide how to spend nearly $25 million of CARES funding; plans must be finalized by Aug. 15

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