Columbia County, in partnership with the Columbia Economic Team (CET), recently distributed nearly $500k in grants to county businesses and non-profit organizations to assist with recovery and resilience in response to economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant dollars were funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was received by the county when it was identified as high-risk last summer.
In September, the county chose to contract with CET again to administer the grant application and disbursement process. The Board of County Commissioners directed CET and County staff to concentrate on making the program more accessible to non-profit organizations that were ineligible for most of the $1.9 million in grants CET distributed last year. As a direct result of modified program guidelines and application criteria, a major marketing push, and targeted communications, nearly double the number of non-profit organizations applied for and received grants this year. Including these latest 2021 grants, nearly $2.5 million in small business and organizational grants has been administered by Columbia Economic Team in 2020 and 2021, nearly $1.5 million from the Board of Commissioners.
The Columbia Economic Team processed a total of 102 applications, many of which were submitted by new applicants. In addition to helping eligible organizations successfully complete the application process, CET spent numerous hours working with the county's Board, Counsel, and Finance Department to ensure that the available funds were distributed by the December 31 deadline.
Of the 85 organizations that received funding awards: 56 are small businesses, 40 of which are women-owned companies, and 29 are non-profits. Non-profits received a total of $271,950 and $222,950 was distributed to small business recipients. The allocations were based on "human" resources: employee or volunteer counts for businesses and non-profits, respectively.
In reporting on program completion to the Board of Commissioners, Paul Vogel, Executive Director of the Economic Team thanked the Board for its focus on the non-profit community. “The economic impacts of the pandemic have affected everyone. Non-profits, however, have been hit with a triple- and maybe quadruple- whammy. The necessary lockdowns, restrictions, and distancing affected them too, donations and funding from financially struggling supporters took a hit, the economic impacts caused a dramatic increase in the need for their services, and in large part they weren’t eligible for most COVID-related grants,” Vogel said. “These organizations, their services, and their place in our communities are vital,” Vogel added. “The Commissioners’ very intentional effort to assist them generated significant response and produced substantial results.”