SNOW HILL – After awarding grants to 164 local businesses, county leaders will try to help more with a second round of funding.
The Worcester County Commissioners this week approved plans to use the remainder of the county’s CARES funding to offer more COVID-19 Back to Business grants as well as to invest in workforce development and advertising. The advertising allocation will primarily target areas south of Newark, at the suggestion of the commissioners.
“I’d just really like to see a focus on the southern part of the county,” Commissioner Chip Bertino said.
Tom Perlozzo, director of recreation and parks, tourism and economic development, told the commissioners that with the $2.18 million in funding the county received through the CARES Act grants had been awarded to 164 businesses out of more than 200 that had applied. Because the county still has slightly more than $1 million in CARES funding, Perlozzo said he wanted to use about $510,000 to provide grants to those who weren’t successful during the first round. This round of funding would also be opened so that sole proprietors could apply.
“This could definitely help the ag producers,” he said.
Perlozzo said he’d like to break the rest of the CARES funding down into $250,000 for workforce development and $250,000 for advertising. He said that in the past, the county devoted its workforce development funding to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs but that the pandemic had shown that workers were needed in other sectors.
“During my short period with economic development all of the workforce money was directed toward STEM,” Perlozzo said. “I’m suggesting a reengineering of that program to include what the county really is, and that’s skilled trades, agriculture and tourism.”
He said the lack of seasonal J-1 employees this year had illustrated the workforce need in Worcester County.
“We need to build a workforce within, that’s what the money would be used for,” he said.
As far as advertising, Perlozzo said that funding could be used to help the towns with promotion.
“The expertise required in the small towns needs some assistance,” he said.
Commissioner Josh Nordstrom said he liked Perlozzo’s suggestions but wanted to know where the grants had been distributed during the first round of funding.
“My concern is it’s not being advertised or promoted as much in the south end,” he said.
According to Perlozzo’s report, 50 businesses in the 21811 zip code received funding. In addition there were five awards in 21813, two in 21841, 79 in 21842, one in 21843, 14 in 21851, nine in 21863, two in 21864 and two in 21872.
Perlozzo assured the commissioners he’d reached out to officials throughout the county about the program.
When asked how the advertising funding would be used, Perlozzo said it was to promote business.
“It’s for coming up with specific opportunities to drive tourism and small business development within the county,” he said.
Bertino asked whether that money could be focused on the south end.
“That’s your call,” Perlozzo said. “But yes. There’s no preconceived split of money.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve spending the additional CARES funding on grants, workforce development and advertising with the understanding that advertising would be concentrated on the south end of the county.