Washington County commissioners launch CARES Act grant program

Barbara Miller
Observer Reporter

The Washington County commissioners announced Tuesday that they will allocate up to $7.5 million in grants to small businesses and nonprofit organizations that have been squeezed by the economic consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The grants will come from the county’s $18.6 million Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act federal funding.

The program formed under the CARES Act will be called the Washington County Small Business and Non-Profit Relief Grant, and the maximum amount allotted will be $25,000.

Earlier this month, the board entered into a $35,000 agreement with Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC to serve as administrative grant consultant evaluating applications.

“Businesses in our local economy are experiencing enormous strain due to forced shutdowns and operating at 25% capacity,” said commission Chairman Diana Irey Vaughan.

“We’ve reached a defining moment for our county’s businesses, that if we do not act, many of them will be closed for good. That’s why it’s so important that we can deliver a grant program and direct needed capital to businesses until they’re again sustainable.”

There will be two installments of grants, with each installment drawing on $3.5 million.

The grant program will be open to any Washington County business with 100 full-time employees or fewer. The businesses, in operation no later than Dec. 30, 2018, must operate and be headquartered in the county.

“Initial preference will be given to those business and organizations that did not receive any other additional government support such as through the federal Paycheck Protection Program or the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program,” said commission Vice Chairman Larry Maggi.

The application period, which opened Tuesday, has a deadline of 4:30 p.m. Sept. 28. The county plans to list awards on its website about mid-October.

“I’ve been very concerned about the economic impact COVID-19 has had on small businesses,” said Commissioner Nick Sherman.

“Many of our downtowns were struggling before the pandemic, and my fear is that they will never recover. I’m talking about businesses in our most vulnerable communities, the Mon Valley, the city of Washington and Canonsburg. We need to make sure all our businesses in the county receive capital.”

Applications, instructions and answers to frequently asked questions will be available at the commissioners’ office, Suite 704, in the Courthouse Square building, or on the county’s website, https://www.co.washington.pa.us.