For more than six months, a dedicated team from across Jefferson County has been busy helping small businesses, cities, nonprofit organizations, residents and others via the CARES Act, or Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Shortly after the world-wide pandemic began closing businesses and entire economies, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners applied for and received $101.7 million in Federal relief funds. The Jeffco CARES Team, which is made up of employees from the county’s workforce, legal and finance teams, has worked continuously to ensure those funds have gone to help those facing economic hardship during these challenging times.
“From the get-go, our biggest concern was pushing CARES Act dollars into the community as quickly as we could,” said Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper. “We knew these funds would make a meaningful difference for our community, helping people and businesses survive these challenging times.”
At a recent brief to the Commissioners, nearly $20 million have been allocated to segments such as: childcare, healthcare, restaurants, senior care, fire protection/safety, and many other affected organizations.
The Business Stability Award Program was one of those highly successful CARES Team efforts —helping some 116 small businesses and nearly 20 home-based businesses across the county. To date, more than 90% of those who applied received helping funds, with more dollars being needed to help small businesses continue to operate.
In all, the CARES Team is involved with helping small businesses get Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) via local Chambers of Commerce, rental assistance for businesses and individuals, food support via local food pantries, COVID testing, and many more areas.
One such note of success came from a local Arvada business, 360 Degrees of Perfection. After the application period for grants had closed, the CARES Team learned of this small business’ struggle fighting eviction from two landlords, and the impact COVID-19 had had on their ability to operate and retain employees. After review of their application, it was approved, and Jefferson County was able to help with their rental expenses from March to December 2020.
“I reached out to the business, and talked with Tamara Webb, the office manager who had submitted the application,” said Mary O’Neil, Director of Strategy, Planning & Analysis. “After she heard what the County was going to be able to do for her and the business, she began to cry,” O’Neil added. “That phone call stands out as the best call I’ve had the opportunity to make in my career.”
“I appreciate all the work and collaboration of our Jeffco CARES team,” said Commissioner Libby Szabo. I know these CARES Act funds will be a great relief to our businesses and those in our community that have been struggling through this Coronavirus pandemic.”
To show the continued impact of the pandemic on the county, Dr. Stephanie Corbo, Jefferson County Chief Financial Officer, highlighted how the current U.S. Gross Domestic Product had improved, but was still not at pre-COVID rates (before March 2020). She also explained that Jefferson County’s unemployment rate, while lower than Colorado and the U.S., still accounted for some 5.9%, or 20,000 people unemployed currently. In addition, one other alarming sign was the fact that food banks had seen an increase in the number of families needing assistance this year of nearly four times as compared with last year; 30% of those being first-time families needing assistance.
“I’m really encouraged by the hard work our CARES Team has done over several trying months,” said Commissioner Casey Tighe. “It has been a huge effort to get CARES Act Funds distributed to help our businesses and residents. I appreciate the hard work and know we're not done yet.” To date, the CARES Team has distributed $77.5 million out of the $101.7 million dollars received. The current plan is to ensure those resources are well utilized before the Dec. 30, 2020, Federal deadline.
Efforts continue with the CARES Team, including a re-opening of grants to nonprofit agencies in Jefferson County area, running Nov. 16-20.