Delaware County on April 16 announced two new assistance programs to help residents and businesses deal with the economic impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
County commissioners approved an initial grant of $89,000 to the United Way of Delaware County’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund to aid eligible county residents with rent, mortgage and utility needs.
Delaware County economic development director Bob Lamb said his office initiated a small-business assistance program to provide businesses with 50 employees or less up to three hours of free business counseling from financial, legal and human resource advisers based in Delaware County.
“This, for us and the community, is extremely helpful for families that have been financially impacted,” said county United Way director Brandon Feller.
Jane Hawes, Delaware County communications director, said in a press release the United Way financial assistance is a reallocation of Community Development Block Grant funds.
Qualifying residents can request up to $500 per household, the release said.
The program is set to be rolled out May 4 on social media and United Way’s website, liveuniteddelawarecounty.org.
“It’s a creative solution to make funding available,” Feller said.
“What they’ve done is look at some existing economic-development grants and seek authorization to use those dollars to help the community,” he said. “I thank and applaud Delaware County for stepping up at this time.”
Lamb said the $30,000 cost to underwrite the small-business assistance program is being covered by a grant partnership between Delaware County and the Delaware County Finance Authority.
The pandemic has created new government-assistance programs, with accompanying new regulations that deal with issues such as staffing and sick leave, Lamb said.
“We want to make sure the businesses are fully informed,” he said. “The goal is not to solve each problem but to provide guidance.”
The small-business program launched April 20, Lamb said, with multiple businesses filing applications online.
He said the program is possible because participating legal and financial firms lowered their fees to reduce costs to the county.
They are the accounting firm Maloney Novotny LLC, the consulting firm the Montrose Group LLC and law firms Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP and Manos, Martin & Pergram Co. LPA.
“We are all in this together, and we look forward to helping our small-business neighbors with various legal issues, including employment, continuation and navigating the throng of federal, state and local programs,” said Steve Cuckler, partner in charge at Taft Stettinius & Hollister’s Delaware office.
“Local business owners are the heart of a community, and every big business was once a small business,” said Andrew Wecker of Manos, Martin & Pergram.
“In addition to the people they employ and the goods and services they provide to the rest of us, they are the ones who support our kids by hiring them part time, sponsoring athletic programs and bidding on and buying Junior Fair market projects,” he said.
Feller said the county grant will be used along with other resources available to United Way to assist families.
“We have a number of residents in the community who on any given day in a good year are struggling,” Feller said. “This crisis has pushed them over the edge.
“We know of a number of individuals who lost at least one income in the family and in some cases two incomes have been lost,” he said. “What we see often is a large majority of a family’s income goes toward housing. That’s especially true as affordable housing in Delaware is more of a challenge.”
United Way wants to ensure families have resources needed to bridge the reopening of the state economy, he said.
State documentation of the county’s grant reallocation was expected to be approved in time for United Way to launch the program May 4, he said.
“When ready, folks can come in with what documentation they need and meet with a case worker to make sure they are eligible,” Feller said. “We want to make sure all the pieces are in place.
“We want to be very nimble and turn things around very quickly to avoid evictions,” he said. “We could see more evictions later this summer.”