Leesburg Council Awards CARES Grants, Readies for More Funding

Although the Town of Leesburg has not yet been able to spend its first round of $4.7 million in CARES Act federal funding, the Town Council voted Tuesday night to accept a second round of equal funding from Loudoun County.

The vote was a reversal of sorts from Monday night’s work session discussion when the staff recommended that the council consider asking the county to keep the town’s portion of CARES funding and distribute it itself to small businesses and nonprofits. 

Town Manager Kaj Dentler said he learned new information earlier Tuesday that Congress is considering changing its criteria in how CARES funding can be spent, and recommended the council not reject the additional funding. No funding would be distributed by the county until the Board of Supervisors’ first meeting in September. One million dollars of the additional $4.7 million will be dedicated to nonprofit grants, and the council will determine how to distribute the remaining $3.7 million when it returns from its late-August recess.

The town has had a difficult time giving away the initial $4.7 million it received. Both of its grant application processes, one for small businesses and another for nonprofits, yielded fewer applications than there was money available during one-week grant application periods in July. Of the little more than $3 million earmarked for small business grants of either $2,500 or $5,000 based on a business’ gross receipts, only $665,000 was awarded by the council this week. That breaks down to 30 grants of $2,500 for businesses with annual income between $25,000 and $100,000, and 118 grants of $5,000 for businesses with income up to $1 million. That leaves more than $2.3 million still unspent.

The council adopted new funding tiers for small business grants that would make both smaller- and larger-grossing operations eligible for the remaining $2.3 million in small business funding. Small businesses now will only need to demonstrate a 15-percent loss in revenue, down from the initial stipulation of a 25-percent revenue loss. The application period for businesses to apply for a grant will also be longer, at three weeks, and businesses will have the opportunity to come into good standing with the town, by way of catching up on fees and licenses, before applying.

The new funding criteria will allow businesses with gross annual receipts of between $2,500 and $9,999 to be eligible for a $1,000 grant; businesses between $10,000 and $24,999 in annual sales are eligible for a $2,000 grant; $5,000 grants for businesses between $25,000 and $100,000 in income; $10,000 grants for businesses between $100,001 and $1 million in income; and businesses between $1,000,001 and $2.5 million can secure a $15,000 grant.

Those businesses that received funding in the first round would receive matching funds from the new criteria set Tuesday, Deputy Town Manager Keith Markel said.

The council also has around $197,000 remaining in CARES funds earmarked for nonprofits that serve town residents and address the medical and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The council on Tuesday made initial grant awards in varying amounts, up to $50,000, to 26 local nonprofits. Markel said staff would reach out to those 26 nonprofits to see if there would be interest in receiving additional grant funding from the remaining $197,000, and ensuring the nonprofits would be able to spend the funds on COVID-related expenses by Dec. 30, as stipulated by federal CARES Act legislation.

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