Guilford County commissioners and staff are well aware that they’re opening a can of worms, but they all seem to feel it’s necessary to open the can nonetheless.
The county is moving forward with a plan to use some of $93.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to help local small businesses.
Even before the plan was publically discussed, several area businesses had contacted Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing to see about getting some relief money and, at a Thursday, May 7 work session, county commissioners pointed out to Lawing that he’ll no doubt get many, many more requests on Friday, May 8, once the media reported on the plan.
The county commissioners acknowledged the need to help local businesses, but several commissioners said the county had to move forward with extreme caution since there would likely not be enough money to meet all the needs and some business owners will no doubt be upset they didn’t get relief funds while others did.
Commissioner Kay Cashion said it will be very difficult to apply the program in a way that local businesses all see as fair.
“How would you do this?” she asked county staff. “There are a lot of small businesses that need help.”
Guilford County Emergency Management Director Don Campbell wasn’t shy about admitting that there were a great number of questions as to how the program will work. He said that, though it had been discussed, staff hadn’t come “anywhere close” to working out those details. Campbell also said there was a meeting scheduled that should “get into the weeds” but he was well aware, he added, of the importance of the program being fair and transparent.
Commissioner Skip Alston said the money must go to help truly needy small businesses and not ones that are, say, part of a franchise or a business that pulls in a great deal of profit and can survive without relief.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips said the program must be very simple so that the help could be dispersed in a quick and efficient manner.