Back to Business program receives overwhelming response

By Bee Group Newspapers | on November 12, 2020

Frank J. Todaro
8th DISTRICT
ERIE COUNTY LEGISLATOR

In last month’s column, I discussed Erie County’s Back to Business program that was rolled out in partnership with 43 North. The application process has since closed and, as we predicted, there was an overwhelming response. According to a recently published article, the program received $97.3 million worth of requests for assistance from small businesses throughout Erie County. Unfortunately, this means many businesses will be left out. In order to ensure the selection process was conducted as fairly as possible, my colleagues and I in the Minority Caucus introduced a resolution requesting a full accounting of the program, once businesses are selected. We need to make sure we are given every detail surrounding who applied, who received funding, and who was left out.

The resolution, which cleared the Legislature a few weeks ago, requires 43 North to send us an accountability report that is expected to outline specific information on how funds were or were not distributed. What we are looking for is a full summary of the businesses that were selected including: the name, address and type of business; the grant amount they applied for and the grant amount awarded to them; the date of the grant award or date of decision to deny a grant application; the date the grant application was received; the score of rating the application received; and a written summary of the algorithm that was used to score or analyze the program. As legislators, we serve as the oversight body of county government. When the county executive announced this program, we knew it would be selective, and we don’t want certain businesses to have an unfair advantage based on their location or other criteria set by those who established the program. Every single business in Erie County is struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is not one ZIP code or legislative district that doesn’t have small business owners teetering on the edge of survival right now. Transparency and accountability are important factors as we analyze how these funds are allocated and which businesses are chosen. Under our resolution, 43 North must deliver the report to the Legislature no later than Jan. 15, 2021. I look forward to reviewing the full report once we receive it.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about the business relief program or another county-related issue, contact my office at 681-2071 or by email at Frank.Todaro@erie.gov.

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