A new report shows the impact of the city of Bowling Green’s BG CARES program, which was enacted to help small businesses damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program’s inception grew from an idea last year in the midst of the pandemic with $1.85 million in federal CARES Act money.
“We started in July with a piece of paper. By February, we had spent $2.2 million,” said Brent Childers, director of the city’s Neighborhood and Community Services Department that helped oversee BG CARES.
The program grew over time, but the aim was always to help small businesses in the city, many of which had to close their doors for prolonged periods.
The program was for businesses with 50 or fewer employees. It provided grants that could be used for rent, utilities, mortgage payments or PPE purchases and the grant amounts ranged from $3,000 to $15,000 depending on the business size.
Enacting such a large program in such a short amount of time was a challenge, Childers said.
“This was the first time we did a program this size,” he said. “Getting the word out was really a lot harder than we expected. What it came down to was we needed a grassroots effort.”
Letting businesses know about the program entailed various efforts and even having city staff go out and hand out physical applications.
The program was adjusted over time and more funding was allocated by the city commission.
“We needed to be flexible,” Childers said. An example of that came when the guidelines were changed to make companies that had received federal Paycheck Protection Program loans eligible for the BG CARES funding.
“That opened the door to a lot of businesses,” he said.
One of the companies receiving a helping hand through BG CARES was the Computer Wizperer computer repair business.
Owner Shane Bradley’s business was the first recipient of funding from the program.
Since his small business didn’t qualify for federal relief programs, “it’s nice that this was available,” Bradley previously told the Daily News.
“This lets us continue to purchase PPE, sanitizer, masks ... it allows us to do what we need to do to stay safe,” he said.
Since the final grant was awarded in February, a report shows the impact of BG CARES:
•$2.24 million was awarded;
•499 Bowling Green businesses received grants;
•More than $1 million was paid out as rent payments to commercial landlords;
•72% of the businesses had five or fewer employees;
•The biggest beneficiaries were restaurants (92), followed by personal services (91), retail (84) and medical (48). Additionally, 16 nonprofits were given grants.
•The majority of the grant funds were used for rent payments (47%), followed by utilities (22%), mortgages (17%) and PPE (14%).
•The majority of the business funded (53%) were women-, minority- or veteran-owned.
“All in all it was a successful program,” Childers said in reviewing the numbers. “We feel like we made a good impact.”