Venango has given out nearly $1.5M in CARES funds

Venango County commissioners are continuing to get CARES money out to local small businesses.

A total of 267 local businesses and 41 non-profits had received grants from the county’s CARES funds as of Thursday.

The county is still processing applications, chief financial officer Diona Brick said.

Various businesses have received $1,281,530 and the non-profits have received $184,834, Brick said.

She added that applications for CARES funds for 11 of the county’s 18 volunteer fire departments are being processed.

“One business shutting its doors is a tragedy,” commissioner Mike Dulaney said. He added that commissioners have been working on the small business grant program every day since before the money was received in July.

Commissioners chairman Sam Breene said the commissioners went door to door to the small businesses in the county with applications to make sure establishments such as barbershops and hair salons knew about the grant program.

“Overall the program has been very well received. Businesses are very thankful for what little we could do to help,” Dulaney said. “Every thank you note we get from businesses means the world to us,” he added.

Dulaney said Venango County was one of the first counties to implement a grant program to help businesses.

“We know the program is working. So many businesses have told us they could not have survived this if not for this money. Some are the smallest of the small, some of which have been in the community for decades,” Breene said.

“Our goal is to have as high an acceptance rate as possible. At this point the acceptance rate is 80% but that could go up,” Breene said.

A goal was to make the application as simple as possible so businesses, especially ones operated by sole proprietors, would be able to find the time to fill it out, Dulaney said.

“We asked them to give us as much information as they could,” Dulaney said. Making the process simple for businesses has put more work on the county, which the commissioners said they are glad to do to help out businesses.

The commissioners agreed that much of the credit for making the program a success goes to Brick, who often dealt with other government agencies regarding how the county CARES money was spent.

“Diona (Brick) worked with the DCED (Department of Community and Economic Development) and regulators to make sure we had an acceptable program,” Breene said.

The commissioners also credited the local chambers of commerce and the Franklin Industrial and Commercial Development Authority for partnering with the county to get the word out to businesses about the CARES grants.