FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County businesses responded by the hundreds to a call for applications under the federal CARES Small Business Grant Relief Program, getting a thumbs-up from a top county official.

As the application deadline passed Aug. 19, some 320 businesses had applied for a portion of the grant money, designed to assist smaller enterprises that have suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just under $1. 9 million dollars is funding the program, a portion of the county’s disbursement under the federal legislation under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The grant process has been administered through the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, which set up an independent oversight committee to vet applications. Executive Vice President Jimmy Lane said that while some applications are still being evaluated, the entire allocated amount has been spoken for.

Lane said some 619 applications were started but not completed for two reasons: either they didn’t fit application criteria or they didn’t apply in time to meet the first-come first-served nature of the program.

Businesses had to meet a number of benchmarks approved by Cumming and Forsyth officials, including having to be located principally in the county, be in operation for at least one year prior to March 1, 2020 and be able to concretely demonstrate a reduction in sales/revenue due to COVID-19.

Lane said applications ran the gamut.

“Everything from the single handyman working out of his home all the way to businesses not to exceed 499 employees,” he said. “It was great to see the diversity as we went through the applications.”

Lane said applicants included manufacturers, service industries and restaurants, which were hit particularly hard.

Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Laura Semanson said officials were  “very pleased” with the response to the call for applications, which kicked off earlier in August on the forsythcountycares website.

“It takes businesses of all kinds to help make a vibrant, thriving community,” she said in a statement. “Small businesses in Forsyth are owned and operated by friends and neighbors, so we are glad we have had many of them take advantage of this program. Our hope is making these funds available will allow these businesses to weather the current storm and come through strong on the other side.”

Lane said the funding is being disbursed in tiers according to the type of business that applied, ranging from up to $2,000 for a sole proprietorship, to up to $10,000 for businesses employing 26 to 499 people.

As to where the money will specifically go, Lane said he viewed a lot of applications seeking help with lease/rent payments, payroll and the cost of personal protective equipment. The county website said other permitted uses include help with machinery and equipment, health care benefits and supplier payments.

It’s the kind of funding mechanism apparently not available to cities in neighboring North Fulton, at least not so far.

Fulton County got $104 million in federal aid this spring to distribute to 14 of its 15 municipalities, with Atlanta getting its own pot. Fulton County has proposed distributing only $2.5 million to the cities, but the municipalities want a bigger share of the pie. Legal action has been held out as a possibility if talks don’t produce a resolution.

In Forsyth, it was not clear when county government would issue the first aid checks.

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