February 4, 2021
Thirty-three applicants have been awarded grant money through the recent program facilitated by Shawnee Forward.
Shawnee Forward CEO Rachael Melot said 64 eligible applications were received.
She said the committee then evaluated each of the businesses to see what the investment would do to advance each one. "Based on that path, they determined the amount of funds to award" until the $105,000 ran out. The businesses received between $2,000 and $5,000.
While Melot stated about half the applicants were either members of Tecumseh Chamber of Commerce, Shawnee Forward, or both, a review of the data showed only 13 of the 33 recipients belonged to either of the organizations; nine are members of Shawnee Forward, and four are members of the Tecumseh Chamber.
During Melot's presentation to the Pottawatomie County Commissioners Monday, she said after the $105,000 ran out, the task force continued to evaluate the rest of the applicants. There were 31 applications not funded. "The amount of money needed to fund the rest of those would be $78,000," she said.
Melot said, "We can't assume that just because the city sales tax numbers look healthy that our business community is healthy. The eligible applicants represented a total sales loss in 2020 of $4.2 million for our county.
"The majority of our applications were from people of the service industry," said Melot. "Most of them don't pay sales tax. So, this is a message that Shawnee Forward continues to tell, which is just because the city sales tax isn't showing a significant decline does not mean that our businesses are not hurting."
At least six of the recipients deal in food service of some kind. Eight applicants awarded $2,500 each appear to be self-employed in some type of service industry, with most of those being in the cosmetology field. Two of the recipients were nail salons, with Kelly Nails in Tecumseh and Lena Nails in Shawnee each receiving $2,500.
"That's the story under the story," said Melot. "These hair stylists, nail techs, newspapers, heat and air mechanics, they're not charging sales tax, and they're struggling. But, it was a really great day for my new employee to call these applicants and tell them what they were awarded and to hear the individual just kind of scream on the other end of the line."
Kathleen Fugate with Rustic Rose said, "The support of our small business by the community and Shawnee Forward has been so appreciated. Receiving this grant at this time is a real blessing.
"We have about a hundred hours invested in this," she said. "But Shawnee Forward didn't use any of the funds to do this. One hundred percent of the CARES dollars went to the businesses. It was a good thing to do for our county."
A five-person committee donated approximately 15 hours each, pouring over the applications and scoring them through the rubric. Melot said she personally spend 20 to 25 hours researching the best practices from other communities and talking to the press.
"This was a way that our county, our cities, and Shawnee Forward could say we hear you," said Melot. "We appreciate you. We understand you, and we want to do all we can to keep you in business."