The Callaway County Commission agreed Monday to pay the Fulton Area Development Foundation a little extra for their help in processing CARES Act grant applications.
According to the county commissioners, aid from the FADF helped the county efficiently disburse the $5.2 million in federal funds it received, ensuring as much of it as possible made it into the hands of local businesses in need.
"We're just happy they included us and allowed us to participate — me on the CARES Act committee, my team working with the business community," said Tamara Tateosian, executive director of the FADF's sister organization, the Callaway Chamber of Commerce. "It shows they respect us and they trust us to send the message to businesses in Callaway County and help them through that process."
The FADF functions as the economic development arm of the Callaway Chamber of Commerce and is governed by a volunteer board of Chamber members.
The county and FADF set up three rounds of grant applications, with eligible local businesses being able to apply for small business relief, help paying utilities, boosting their marketing capabilities, and more. The FADF collected and processed the grant applications, while county employees reviewed the applications before granting final approval.
"The FADF reached out and made an above and beyond effort encouraging (businesses) to apply for CARES Act grants," Western District Commissioner Roger Fischer said. "At the end of the day, I truly believe they've helped us make this a better and safer community."
Tateosian said the FADF/Chamber spoke to 500-plus businesses, processed around 480 applications and ultimately awarded 436 grants totaling about $830,000. She said there's no way to track how many hours she and her team spent working on the grants — they were simultaneously guiding businesses through the process of applying for Paycheck Protection Program, EIDL and Show-Me Recovery Loans.
"Since July, it's been nothing but answering questions about grants," she said.
In the summer of 2020, the county agreed to pay the FADF $20,000 in CARES Act money for administering the grants they'd handled up to that point, Callaway County Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann said.
"We did do at least one, if not two, additional (grants) after entering the agreement," Jungermann said — though, he said, those grants had fewer takers, less-involved applications and more repeat customers.
Recently, the FADF approached the county about additional payment in recognition of the services they continued to render after those initial grants.
By comparison, Jungermann said the county retained $35,000-$40,000 in CARES Act money as an administrative fee.
Fischer voiced immediate support, ultimately making a motion proposing a $5,000 payment.
"Whatever we pay them is out of the CARES Act money it's not out of county coffers," he pointed out.
Randy Kleindienst, eastern district commissioner, was initially resistant.
"I'm a steward of taxpayer dollars," he said. "Nothing's free, and it all costs taxpayers, though sometimes indirectly — there's no such thing as free money."
But, he admitted, he respects and appreciates the hard work put in by the FADF.
"I'll say this — if you feel like we added an additional load from the first (payment) I'd call it another $5,000," he said. "I think they did a really good job."
He and Fischer voted in favor of the motion, bringing the total payment from Callaway County to the FADF to $25,000.
Tateosian said that money will be reinvested into the community.
"This money will be in the FADF for future economic development needs in our community," she said. "We're there to assist small businesses and industries that are trying to start up or maybe have problems or issues. We don't really highlight or talk about it; we just do what we need to do to help businesses.