You’d think that there would be no better time than an economy-crippling pandemic to give away federal money to local businesses.

However, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has been having trouble getting money into the hands of those who need it, and, at a Thursday, June 25 Zoom meeting of the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance (GCEDA), Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips told the alliance members to expect some changes in the county-administered program that offers money to small businesses.

“For me at least, interestingly, the demand was not quite as significant as we expected,” Phillips told the local elected leaders and economic development officials on Thursday.  

That morning, Phillips told the alliance that about $3 million of the $20 million pot had been distributed to businesses hurt by the virus. Later in the day, Phillips said he’d gotten an update and that number was now over $4 million. So perhaps that’s a sign that local businesses harmed by the pandemic are starting to discover that the county may have up to $10,000 waiting for them simply for the asking.

“Our intention is to move into a Phase 2 in early July – a re-launch, if you will – that will include some revisions on the guidelines to sort of open up the opportunity to more folks,” Phillips said.

The federal government gave Guilford County about $94 million in COVID-19 relief funds, and, if the county doesn’t use that money by the end of the year, it may have to return the unused portion.

Phillips said the next phase of the small business relief program is still “in the works,” but he added that some changes will likely include raising the number of employees an eligible business can have from 25 to 50, and moving the revenue cap of $2 million up to $2.5 million or $3 million.

Also, currently, there are some restrictions that disqualify businesses that have gotten other federal relief funds or limit the amount those businesses can receive. Those restrictions may be loosened up as well, Phillips said.