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Nye County creating COVID Relief Program

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nye County had received $8.49 million from the federal government last year, through the CARES Act, with the stipulation that the money was to be spent by the end of 2020.

The county immediately went to work to create its CARES Act Grant Program, which encompassed a variety of assistance grants for local communities but the rollout of that program was not quite as successful as the county had hoped it would be. As the year drew to a close and the county saw that it still had an abundance of that funding remaining, officials began to search for ways to utilize the dollars so they would not be lost when the calendar changed to 2021.

Putting the remaining $1.9 million in CARES Act funds to use in its own public health and safety operations, the county was then able to free up a corresponding amount of money in the general fund, which has now been transferred to the county grants fund and will be utilized in the coming weeks to assist small businesses, nonprofits and individuals in Nye County who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, Feb. 18 the Nye County Commission held a special meeting to discuss the parameters of the county’s COVID Relief Program, which is currently in the process of development and will soon be made available to the community.

The COVID Relief Program may be very similar to the Nye County CARES Act Grant Program but it is a separate and distinct program that does not come with the same stringent and often cumbersome requirements that were attached to the federal dollars that had been allocated last year. As such, county commissioners’ main goal on Feb. 18 was to create a simpler, less intimidating program in the hope that area businesses and individuals will take advantage of the forthcoming grant opportunities so the $1.9 million can be put to use in helping the community recover from the devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using the framework of the county’s CARES Act Grant Program as a starting point, commissioners delved into the details of each of the program segments, including those specific to small businesses, the general public and nonprofits, identifying which requirements from the previous program should be carried over into the new program and which requirements could be done away with.

One of the major changes made that morning was proposed by Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo, who suggested that rather than having three different applications for small businesses, one specific to working capital, one for personal protective equipment expenses and a third for rent and mortgage assistance, these three should be combined into a single application. His fellow commissioners concurred with that suggestion and the county’s COVID Relief Program for small businesses will offer working capital only, with the permissible uses of that funding to include PPE and rent expenses along with costs related to utilities, inventory, payroll and licensing fees.

Also on the small business front, commissioners decided that there was no need to require small businesses to submit a payroll report with their COVID Relief Program application. Likewise, commissioners chose to remove the requirement for a profit and loss statement as well, opting instead to incorporate an affidavit in the application that would ask business owners to verify that they had indeed been impacted by COVID-19.

All of the other requirements were retained and small businesses applying for funding through the county’s COVID Relief Program will need to provide their business name, address and point of contact, a copy of the business owner’s driver’s license, the business’ W-9 or similar IRS documentation, state business license number and, when applicable, town of Pahrump business license number. Applicants for this segment of the program will also need to detail how they plan to use the funds and afterward, they will be required to provide documentation showing that the funding was in fact used for eligible purposes.

Small businesses with 30 or less employees that were in business as of August 19, 2020 will be eligible for the COVID Relief Program. The program will be open to legal businesses in Nye County, including brothels and marijuana establishments. Nonprofit organizations will also be able to apply for working capital under the county’s small business grant program.

On the public side, which was the most successful portion of the CARES Act Grant Program, little was changed for the COVID Relief Program and all of the previous application requirements will be the same. While the requirements for the public assistance program did not change, commissioners did adjust this segment of the program slightly by adding an option for those who have gone into debt in order to avoid becoming delinquent on their rent, mortgage or utility bills. Those who can show proof that they used a credit card or obtained a loan to cover such expenses can apply for funding to help them recoup the funds they have already laid out.

Residents who plan to apply for rent or mortgage assistance will need to provide their name, address, contact information and a copy of their identification, as well as proof of residency and documentation showing a loss of hours at their job or unemployment documentation. A statement of delinquency, or else proof that their rent was paid using credit or a loan, is also required. For applicants that are delinquent, they will need to provide their landlord or mortgage company’s W-9. Business owners in the community who wish to apply for public rent assistance for their personal residences will be required to complete an affidavit certifying that they were affected by COVID-19.

Nonprofits and charities that provide assistance to the public will be able to apply for funding to support their own assistance programs as well. These entities will be asked to provide the nonprofit or charity’s name, address and point of contact, W-9 or similar IRS documentation, state business license number and town of Pahrump business license number, if applicable, and a narrative detailing their budget and plan for using the funds. They will then need to go before the Nye County Commission to present their plan for approval.

The final segment of the COVID Relief Program focuses on direct utility assistance, by which the county will provide funding directly to utility companies that apply to cover the costs of bringing delinquent accounts up to date. This includes water, sewer, power, propane, trash and internet utilities. Those companies will be required to contact their customers to determine if they are past due because of COVID and submit a list of said accounts.

As it stands today, the maximum amount that small businesses, individuals, nonprofits and utilities can apply for has not yet been determined. Commissioners will take up that topic at their next meeting, set for Tuesday, March 2 at 10 a.m. Once the COVID Relief Program Policy is adopted, applications will be made available to the community.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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