Fifteen million dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds awarded to Oklahoma County are now on the way to a small business relief fund, but the clock is ticking to get it out the door.
“I am on my fourth month of messing with everybody here to get the CARES funds where it was originally planned to go,” Sean Cummings told commissioners. “To the citizens of Oklahoma.”
Businessowner Leslie NesSmith told the board COVID-19 forced her to layoff half of her workforce. However, she said she’d rather go without financial assistance.
“It’s been terrible, but I fear government growing even more,” she said.
The board of county commissioners voted 2-to-1 on sending money left over from the Oklahoma County jail to the Oklahoma Industries Authority, creating the small business fund. Commissioners Brian Maughan and Carrie Blumert voted in favor; Commissioner Kevin Calvey voted against.
Commissioners voted to require the grants be approved by December 9.
“I don’t know that this is a save all for their businesses, I think sometimes this is just bridging a little gap,” Maughan said.
The funds will be available to businesses of less than 100 employees in Oklahoma County, but outside Oklahoma City where financial assistance has already been offered. A website with application information is expected to be launched by the end of the week.
Blumert said the county program will fill in gaps left by a city small business relief program.
“When the city opened their application, they had 300 businesses who they had to turn away because they were not within the boundaries of Oklahoma City, so we feel like day one we could serve up to 300 businesses,” she said.
“If approved, this will benefit less than 1% of the county. The jail benefits 100% of people in this county,” Calvey said ahead of the vote.
He continued to lobby for sending the funds back to the jail, saying he has a way to bypass the December 30 deadline to give the detention center more time to spend the money.