Boulder County Disburses More COVID-19 Relief Grants to the Community

In Boulder County, Colorado, community-based grants set up for the response of the COVID-19 pandemic have mostly been small, one-time amounts. For the local businesses and nonprofits that received these awards, the support has been critical to their survival and missions. The county issued these funds before the CARES Act loans and grants became available. It did this through its own financial resources, which continue to be combined with the federal funding. On October 31, the program announced some additional grants to local nonprofits.

About the Boulder County COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund

The Boulder Chamber of Commerce and the established Community Foundation Boulder County initiated the Boulder Chamber of Commerce's COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund in May. It allowed businesses and nonprofits to apply for grants at the beginning of the month, and the grant recipients received the awards by the end of the month. A total of 148 recipients received their funds before May 31.

How Much Money Was Disbursed

John Tayer, who is the President and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, stated that about $400,000 was distributed to the community. The city of Boulder made the largest contribution to the fund on April 7. It put in $200,000 and challenged the community to match that amount. A city representative explained that CARES Act funds were used for rental assistance and payroll help, and the Boulder Chamber of Commerce focused its programs on helping businesses rapidly pivot to the changes in the economy caused by COVID-19.

Who Matched the City's Donation

The city was able to get companies and private citizens to chip into the fund. Other contributors included Zayo Group Holdings Inc., which is a business based in Boulder. Two private citizens, Dan and Cindy Caruso, donated $50,000. Mr. Caruso is the co-founder of the Zayo Group and the philanthropic Caruso Foundation. Others who donated to the community challenge were the BI-Group JSC, Twitter Inc., Anchor Point Foundation, Conscience Bay Co. LLC and Google LLC.

How Much Each Applicant Could Receive

The Boulder Chamber of Commerce grand program allowed each applicant to receive up to $2,500 in one-time funds. The fund's organizer received a lot of letters explaining how the funds were useful to the recipients. A yoga teacher stated that the funds were used to buy equipment for streaming yoga classes. This equipment helped the owner stay in business when in-person classes were not allowed. Even though the business reopened in July, it has lost about 50% of its usual revenue from lower class participation. It can only have one-third of its usual capacity for in-person classes.

Other Grant Programs in Boulder

The Chamber of Commerce program was not the only grant option for Boulder businesses. The Community Foundation Boulder County also offered a small business and nonprofit COVID-19 Response Fund. Its program started on March 13. The funds were issued in three rounds. Applicants had to use them for providing community access to care, food, hygiene products, emergency shelter and rental assistance for underserved residents of the community. It issued 172 grants to 88 entities for a total of $1.2 million in funding. The grant amounts ranged from $1,000 to $100,000. The average grant amount was $6,233.

Why Local Dollars Are Important

Federal funds come with a lot of strings attached. Local dollars don't have as many restrictions. Those restrictions include the purpose of the program, the status of the organization and what the funds can be used to pay for or buy. The local dollars offer more flexibility. The applications for the local funds are shorter and easier. Some of the local grants in Boulder didn't require an application. Instead, they just required the business or nonprofit to write a proposal, and the grant administrators decided if the program was a good one to fund.

How Local Dollars Staying in the Community Help Boulder's Citizens

When money raised in the community stays there, the donors get to see the direct results of their actions. This offers inspiration and motivation for additional funding to come through. Less red tape for the grant programs also ensures that fewer of the dollars are spent on administrative expenses and more of them are spent directly on the community's needs. Keeping dollars in the community has provided a much-needed boost to the small business owners and nonprofits that are committed to serving all citizens.

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