MCNOW Cushman

CARES Act money will go straight where it should—to small local businesses.

Good afternoon. 

They are from the government, and they are here to help you.

This is Erik Cushman, the Weekly’s publisher, checking in with the undertold story of a county agency whose mission is to help job-seekers and employers. The Monterey County Workforce Development Board receives federal money to train (or re-train) local residents who are out of work, to assist young people to hone their job skills and to transition people who are experiencing barriers to employment—for example, those with a criminal history, recovering from addiction, or lacking a high school diploma—from public assistance to productive members of the workforce. 

On paper, it is an elegant idea that enjoys widespread support from both big-hearted liberals and fiscal conservatives because it utilizes federal dollars to take folks who are on the dole and guides them to be fully fledged wage-earning, taxpaying members of society. 

On the ground, it’s a little less tidy. 

Today the need is so great, but the obstacles to carrying out the mission are pretty daunting. At present, the offices of the WDB are closed to the public because of the coronavirus so they can’t do in-person counseling or hold classes. The training providers are likewise shuttered; job-seekers can't go to truck driving school or culinary classes. 

I have been chair of the Workforce Development Board for the last dozen years. This may be the most difficult time for the agency during my tenure. 

Today at the County Board of Supervisors meeting, the WDB got some good news—and, by extension, so did the employers of Monterey County. 

The supervisors voted unanimously to authorize the WDB to disburse approximately $450,000 in CARES Act money to local business owners. The money is available in grants up to $10,000 each to employers to defray business expenses impacted by Covid-19. The program is kind of a local PPP program—only these are grants, not loans. 

For two weeks beginning Nov. 2, the WDB will accept applications for grants from local employers. The criteria to qualify are pretty easy to meet. Businesses must be licensed and not under tax liens, but otherwise, eligibility is straightforward. The business must employ 50 or fewer people, be headquartered in Monterey County and show that they have been impacted by Covid-19. They will need to turn in receipts for their expenses to be reimbursed, but eligible expenses can go back to March 13—the beginning of shelter-in-place. In evaluating the applicants, the WDB will utilize a rating scorecard and businesses in the unincorporated areas will have priority, since this is county money.

If the average grant comes to $5,000, there will be about 90 grants available. The application window will close Nov. 16. To apply, go to the WDB website after Nov. 2. 

While not all businesses will make it through the pandemic shutdown, efforts like this will help some survive. There have been a few other local-level miniature CARES Act efforts by the cities of Monterey, Marina, Seaside and Gonzales. This WBD program is positioned to make a big difference for small businesses on the brink. 

-Erik Cushman, publisher, erik@mcweekly.com

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