Last month, the Business Interruption Fund distributed nearly $100 million of federal dollars to small Wyoming businesses that were negatively impacted by the public health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The money came from Wyoming’s allocation of the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In May, the Wyoming Legislature entrusted a total of $325 million in CARES Act funding to the Wyoming Business Council to distribute to the state’s struggling businesses and nonprofit organizations.
The Interruption Fund was the first of three relief programs to distribute those dollars. This fund was designed as a rapid response to get money in the hands of the state’s small businesses – those with 50 or fewer employees – as quickly and efficiently as possible. Individual businesses could receive funds of up to $50,000.
In about eight weeks, the Business Council wrote program rules; created a simple, straightforward and secure online application; marketed the program; answered several thousand questions from applicants; and approved 4,204 applications for payment. A total of $98.6 million was ultimately distributed across all Wyoming counties.
Originally, the Interruption Fund had $50 million to distribute, but the demand quickly surpassed the initial allocation, and Gov. Mark Gordon shifted another $50 million into it to meet the need.
“Our staff spent many, many long hours to make this program successful, but we've been energized by and grateful for the opportunity to help in this way,” Business Council CEO Josh Dorrell said. “It has certainly been difficult to see so many people hurting and businesses struggling, but it has also been heartwarming to see our state come together to support each other.”
Sara Mathuin owns two businesses in Cody: Go Native America, a tourism company; and Cacofoni, a website development business.
Tours with Go Native America had to be rescheduled or canceled and refunded, she said. And many of her Cacofoni clients defaulted on payments.
While staying extremely busy trying to keep afloat, Mathuin said she was very grateful for the simple application for the Interruption Fund.
“I was expecting the application to be really long and difficult,” she said. “I can’t even begin to tell you how relieved I was when I looked at it. I couldn’t believe how well the Business Council had done it.”
The application required some simple calculations to determine losses and did not require any attachments or complicated explanations.
“It was an amazing, simple process,” Mathuin said. “I didn’t have time to do a long, complex application, and I probably would have been one of the people who fell through the cracks if it had been more complicated.”
Psychologist Mark Watt, the owner of Snowy Range Consulting, LLC, in Laramie, also appreciated the grant, which allowed him to avoid having to deplete his savings and/or take out a loan to keep his business alive.
“I very often do not get reimbursed for my work for three to four months after I submit my billing,” he said. “Therefore, I anticipate having relatively little, if any, income from July through October. The grant will help me pay bills and buy supplies needed for my work without having to borrow the money.”
Watt said he encouraged several others to apply, as well.
“I greatly appreciate what the Wyoming Business Council is doing to help small businesses survive this difficult period our country is going through,” he said.
Kevin Knapp, of Sheridan, had just begun dedicating himself full-time to his video, marketing and web design business, Little Goose Multimedia, about a year ago.
“I had just started building up momentum,” he said. “The shutdowns really threw off that momentum.”
He was also pleasantly surprised by the simplicity and ease of applying for the Interruption Fund.
“Although I already work out of my home, much of my work has to be done in person. I had to make some hard choices and lost some work opportunities in order to follow social-distancing guidelines,” he said. “The grant money allowed my entire family to breathe easier about those choices.”
The Interruption Fund closed on July 2. The Business Council is currently accepting and reviewing applications for the Relief and Mitigation Funds, which offer stipends up to $300,000 and $500,000 respectively, for eligible businesses and nonprofits. Visit www.wyobizrelief.org for more information and to apply.