The Oklahoma County Commissioners established a CARES Act business assistance program for Oklahoma County outside of the Oklahoma City limits. This comes four months after the county received the funds from the federal program.
The Oklahoma Industries Authority (OIA) with leadership by Cathy O’Connor, will set up a program immediately to start processing applications.
Commissioners voted to transfer $15 million of CARES Act money to OIA to set up and administer the program. (See agenda item 23 below.)
The program is to help county businesses stay afloat during the severe economic downturn of the pandemic.
After considerable wrangling between Commissioners Carrie Blumert and Kevin Calvey, a hard deadline of December 9 was set for the OIA to report back to the Commissioners. Whatever money is not approved to be applied to businesses will return to Oklahoma County.
The three-week deadline is a result of two commissioners, Brian Maughan and Kevin Calvey originally taking the position that all the county’s CARES Act funds should be applied to shoring up the infrastructure of the Oklahoma County Jail especially to help them with ventilation and reconfiguring the interior to make it safer during the pandemic.
The consequence is that over the last four months the Jail Trust has been trying to find its way in how to spend $25-$40 million on hard improvements that could be justified under CARES Act rules without complete success. So, they returned a large portion back to the County in its November 2 meeting.
By contrast, four months ago, the City of Oklahoma City used its CARES Act funds very soon after receiving the money to start providing assistance to as many businesses in the City limits as possible and is on its second round of assistance.
The end-of-year deadline now looms for Oklahoma County to find a way to use the CARES Act funds before the December 30 deadline. After that, the money will have to be sent back to the federal government.
Calvey and Maughan supported a motion that put a “hard deadline” of December 9 on the process where any funds not approved by the OIA or the underwriting banks would “lapse back to the county.”
“I just don’t feel comfortable putting a hard deadline on we have no idea what this program is going to do until it starts,” argued Blumert. In the end, she was outvoted and the December 9 deadline was established.
The $15 million came from item 28 on the agenda which unallocated $25,322,306.52 that was previously allocated to the Jail Trust. The Commissioners still have $10 million of the CARES Funds to use before the end of the year.
Cathy O’Connor told the commissioners that in the second round of the City assistance programs there were about 300 applicants who were not in the City limits. That pool then will be contacted about the County program.
They would have to re-apply because of some differences in the programs and the time table differences, said O’Connor. However, she was confident that a significant number would apply to the program quickly as others did to the similar City programs.
The OIA was prepared to go to work on implementing the program that afternoon but specifics of the program were yet to be established until the commissioners voted to start the program.
Free Press will report specifics once they become available.Agenda-BoCC-11-16-20
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Correction – Language in the first version of this report showed $15 million given for the business assistance program and then another $25 million added to that. This report has been corrected to show that the $15 million came from $25 million that was unallocated to free it up to use. We are sorry for the error.