COVID-19 relief funds available for Wyoming businesses
Recently, Gov. Mark Gordon allocated remaining federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to help Wyoming businesses and nonprofits with ongoing COVID-19 related losses and expenses.
The Wyoming Business Council, which has been in charge of distributing CARES Act dollars through the COVID-19 Business Relief Program, is currently finalizing two new funds for the program – the Agriculture Fund and the Endurance Fund. Both funds will open on Nov. 2 and close Nov. 18.
In addition to the Agriculture and Endurance Funds, the COVID-19 Business Relief Program consists of three other funds – the Interruption Fund, the Relief Fund and the Mitigation Fund.
“The effects of COVID-19 haven’t disappeared from our communities and businesses,” says Gordon. “There are impacts still being felt by business owners, nonprofit organizations and agriculture producers.”
“Right from the start, we worked with the legislature to pace our programs so they would reach each sector as the needs became clear,” he continues. “The Wyoming Business Council will distribute these federal funds where they are needed to help continue our economic recovery.”
The Agriculture and Endurance Funds
According to the Wyoming Business Council, the Agriculture Fund has $90 million reserved to support the state’s farmers and ranchers who have experienced business interruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Awards up to $250,000 are available to Wyoming agriculture producers who were established on or before March 13, 2020.
The council also notes the Endurance Fund will have at least $24 million set aside for businesses and nonprofits to cover COVID-19 related losses and expenses. Money available in this fund may increase as unused CARES Act dollars from other programs may be moved into it.
Awards of up to $250,000 will be available through the Endurance Fund for all affected Wyoming businesses.
“These two funds serve important purposes as we near the deadline of the current CARES Act funding,” says Wyoming Business Council CEO Josh Dorrell.
“First, because of the seasonality of agriculture production, this $90 million relief fund allows farmers and ranchers to better capture 2020 losses and expenses related to the pandemic,” Dorrell continues. “Second, many Wyoming businesses and nonprofits are not out of the woods yet, and this opportunity for another round of funding will help with the losses businesses have continued to endure.”
Eligible entities can apply one time per fund and recipients of previous Business Relief Program awards may apply for the two new funds if they have eligible losses or expenses since their previous application dates.
“We would like to offer some best practices, based on experience we have had in the past, to help make this process as smooth as possible,” states Heather Tupper, Wyoming Business Council’s southeast regional director, during an educational Zoom meeting held Oct. 28.
“First of all, we recommend working with an expert. The application process can be overwhelming, but if individuals have a trusted financial advisor to help them, it will be a lot easier,” she says.
“Second, for those who have previously logged into the system, using their previous credentials and login information will help speed the process up as well,” she adds. “Individuals who may have forgotten their passwords, can reset them in the system or call our toll free number at 877-257-7844.”
Tupper’s third piece of advice is to use an online worksheet the council made to mirror the application, so individuals can gather information before the goes live on Nov. 2.
“After finishing the application, it doesn’t just disappear into thin air,” Tupper states. “Individuals will receive an e-mail verification from email@example.com and a tracking number. If they do not receive this e-mail, they need to check their spam mail.”
Tupper explains the Wyoming Business Council then organizes applications in the order they were received and begins a multi-step process.
“First, the applications will go through a quick system review to make sure there are no immediate issues,” she says. “We then have a customer service team who completes a review process, where they match information to statewide database systems and other agencies.”
From here, applications move to the Wyoming State Auditor’s Office.
“In regards to this particular project, the State Auditor’s Office is the one responsible for the distribution of funds and cutting the checks,” explains Adam Grant, fiscal division manager in the Wyoming State Auditor’s Office. “Once an application has been approved by the Wyoming Business Council, we start our process to try and get checks out the door.”
Grant explains individuals who have previously conducted business through the state auditor or who have applied for other funding in the program receive their check as soon as they are validated in the system.
“Those who have not worked through the State Auditor’s Office are put into the system using information from their applications,” Grant says. “We then run them through the IRS to make sure they check out, and if they do, we send them their money.”
With the council’s focus on communication, Tupper notes individuals will receive regular updates on where their application is in the process.
Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.