CARES fund for county businesses, nonprofits alloted

October 15, 2020 Cranberry Local News

The $17 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant funds distributed by the county to municipalities, small businesses, nonprofits and growth collaboratives affected by the pandemic is exhausted, except for a $300,000 cushion to cover unforeseen circumstances.

The commissioners at their Wednesday meeting voted to approve grant agreements with 50 nonprofit organizations, 107 small businesses and five growth collaboratives.

The vote is contingent upon checking to ensure all businesses are up to date on their taxes.

The small businesses to receive grants are located throughout the county and offer all types of products and services.

Of the 107 small businesses, 80 will receive the maximum grant of $25,000.

Two businesses will receive $5,000, which is the lowest grant amount. The remaining businesses will get amounts within that range.

According to a graph created by Mark Gordon, the county's chief of economic development and planning, businesses in the hard-hit food and beverage industry received the most grant funds, followed by the service industry, construction, entertainment, medical, retail, technical services, educational, professional services, individual and transportation.

Each business, Gordon said, was vetted for eligibility through a rigorous process.

The grants will reimburse the businesses for expenses necessitated by the pandemic, including sanitization products, personal protective equipment, costs incurred to follow social distancing protocols, advanced technology needed to provide their products or services, and other virus-related expenses.

Gordon said Joe Saeler, director of the Community Development Corporation of Butler County, and his staff provided much-needed assistance in evaluating the applications from the businesses that applied for the grants.

“On behalf of the businesses, any help from you three commissioners is greatly appreciated,” Saeler said.

Wil White, the county solicitor, suggested the awards be made contingent upon verification with the county tax claim office and treasurer's office that no entities to receive grants owe taxes.

“I'd hate to be giving an entity (a grant) if they owe ... back taxes,” White said.

In addition to eligible expenses, the 50 nonprofits that were approved for grants, Gordon said, were required to be based in Butler County and perform services for county residents.

Nonprofits must have either 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) tax-exempt status as well.

More than $446,000 in grant funds were earmarked for nonprofits in all corners of the county, Gordon said.

Of the 50 nonprofits approved, 40 are to receive the maximum $10,000 grant.

Libraries, volunteer fire departments, churches, foundations and historical societies, among many others, were approved to receive the CARES funds.

Five entities designated “growth collaboratives” received $700,000 in grant funding from the county CARES funds.

The county Community Development Corporation will receive the largest grant of any category, at $275,000.

The county Tourism and Convention Bureau will receive $250,000.

The Butler County Chamber of Commerce will get $75,000, and the Pittsburgh Regional North Chamber of Commerce and the Group Marketing for the tourism bureau will each receive $50,000.

Leslie Osche, commissioners chairwoman, said a list of all entities receiving grant funds will be added to the county website at butlercountypa.gov.

About $300,000 was left in the CARES account, Gordon said.

“We are working on other activities for its distribution,” he said.

Osche said she is glad to have a cushion in the account to ensure all needs are being addressed during the pandemic.

The funds must be allocated by the end of the year.

The commissioners have also extended grants from the county CARES account to several municipalities.

Paula Grubbs

Paula Grubbs

Paula Grubbs is a Butler County native who has been with the Butler and Cranberry Eagle newspapers since June 2000. Grubbs has covered the Mars School District and Middlesex Township for over 20 years with the Eagle and her former employer, the Cranberry Journal. She also covers Adams Township, Evans City and Mars in addition to events and incidents throughout Southwestern Butler County as assigned. Grubbs has taken the lead at the Cranberry Eagle in reporting on shale gas development, which has been a hotly debated topic in the recent past, both locally and nationally. A 1979 graduate of Butler Senior High School and a 1994 graduate of Geneva College, Grubbs has won a Golden Quill and four Keystone state awards, plus an award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Grubbs enjoys following the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers, volunteers with the Connoquenessing Creek Cleanup each summer, and loves spending time outdoors and bird watching at her Penn Township home. Grubbs is the daughter of James R. Davis Sr., of Center Township, and the late Maxine Davis. She has two grown children, Jacqueline and Thomas.