OUR POSITION: Charlotte County has wasted no time in working out a plan to deliver CARES relief checks to local businesses.

If you own a local business in Charlotte County and COVID-19 put a dent in your bottom line, you can do something about that starting Monday.

Charlotte County Economic Development Director Dave Gammons has announced that beginning at 8 a.m. Monday, the county will take applications for checks up to $30,000 from businesses that had to shut down or were financially impacted by the virus. The county is designating $6.58 million — from an total award of $32.9 million — to help local businesses with recovery. The remainder of the money will be used for human services needs, constitutional offices, the city of Punta Gorda and for a reserve fund.

The money comes from $1.275 billion of CARES Act funds Gov. Ron DeSantis sent to counties with a population below 500,000. The United States Treasury previously disbursed over $2.472 billion in funding to all counties whose populations exceed 500,000 — including Sarasota and Lee counties.

“The applications will be considered on a first-come, first-serve basis,” Gammons said. “There will be four stages and the first group will include aviation, manufacturing industries along with nonprofits.”

Gammons said there are about 11,000 businesses in Charlotte County that could possibly qualify for the money. But any business that received funds from the federal government under the Payroll Protection Program would not be eligible for the CARES funds. Otherwise, it pays to get the application (available online www.Cleared4Takeoff.com) in early.

Businesses with up to 10 employees can get as much as $10,000; 11-25 employees, $20,000 and more than 25 employees can get as much as $30,000. Gammons guessed there would be enough money in phase I to accommodate about 150 businesses.

Sarasota County was one of the early governments to received money from CARES. Its pot is about $75.7 million. The county’s Economic Development Corporation is still surveying businesses with the help of chambers of commerce as to what their greatest needs are and how they would use the money. A spokesperson for the EDC of Sarasota County said a specific plan for applying for the funding and when and how soon checks could be sent out is still undetermined.

There are, of course, hoops to jump through.

Documentation needed includes: completed W-9; copy of the business owner’s driver’s license; Charlotte County business tax receipt; copy of tourist development tax forms and completed county affidavit, among other things. Again, details can be found on the county website.

Of course the intention is to help any business that suffered an economic “injury” during this pandemic, from March through the end of this year. An “injury” would include being forced to close; a nonprofit whose revenues were impacted; a business with revenue losses compared to 2019; or in the case of a vacation rental if you were forced to close by the state or county.

The money will not make most businesses whole again. But it could be the difference between some small businesses being able to open back up or having to shut their doors for good.

We applaud the work done by the Charlotte County EDO and the input from chambers of commerce and others that allowed this program to be put in place so quickly after getting the funds.

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