FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Approximately 1,700 Forsyth-based small businesses could soon receive some financial support through the $2.2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The county has charged the Forsyth Chamber of Commerce with leading a program to get those dollars into the hands of local business owners. The Chamber outlined its proposal at the Board of Commissioner’s July 28 work session.

The county is set to receive around $12.4 million through the program, and after paying off its own coronavirus-related expenses, around $8 million could be left to dole out as it sees fit. A significant portion will be awarded to local small businesses.

Scott Evans of the Forsyth Chamber outlined which businesses could be eligible to receive financial aid and how much they could expect.

The Chamber’s proposal would allow a single-owner businesses with no employees $2,000 in relief funds. Companies with two to five employees could receive $5,000 and businesses with 6-25 workers would be granted $7,500. Companies with more than 26 employees would be eligible for $10,000.

Companies receiving funds would be required to have their primary location in the county, including sole proprietors and contractors. They would also need to be operating on March 1, 2020 and be able to show a reduction in sales due to COVID-19.

Evans said while researching other county and city governments’ plans to allocate funds for small businesses, all had expressed regret over not having a paper trail.

“If a business applies for any level of this grant, they have to provide (this) documentation in case there is an audit,” Evans said.

The allocations would be on a first-come-first-served basis.

The Chamber’s proposal also outlines companies that would be excluded from receiving funds. They include;

  • Companies that are publicly traded or partially owned by a hedge fund
  • Individuals who hold real property for passive sale or investment with no active ties to a for-profit business at that location
  • Adult businesses as defined by local ordinance.
  • Businesses owned or operated by the Forsyth County government or Forsyth Chamber
  • Corporate-owned franchises
  • Companies with active code-enforcement violations
  • Companies with legal actions against them from Forsyth County
  • Any owner, operator or partner in a business found with financial mismanagement

Commission Chair Laura Semanson suggested the Chamber eliminate the provision that adult businesses be excluded. She said the county does not have any adult businesses that most think of when they hear the term, like strip clubs, but some companies do fall under the category under the county’s codes.

Each commissioner will name a volunteer to oversee the Chamber’s allocation of the funds. The volunteers will not seek out or identify businesses that could receive assistance.

Under the CARES Act, at least 30 percent of the county’s funds must be spent or allocated by Sept. 1. The remainder must be used by Dec. 31.

The Chamber will receive about $45,000 paid through the relief funds for directing the small business payment initiative, including $20,000 for software. The organization has also requested a 5 percent administration fee.

The Chamber’s proposal could go before commissioners for a vote at their next regularly schedule meeting on Aug. 6.

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