ENTERPRISE — Wallowa County businesses that have been severely hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic — whether they have been forced to close or seen a large portion of their income axed by virus-related executive orders — now have an opportunity to obtain funding, an opportunity that expires at 5 p.m. Dec. 21.

The state has allocated to Wallowa County $563,232 of the funds it obtained from the federal government in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The county commissioners then developed a criteria for businesses to apply for a grant. The state approved the grant application process Tuesday, Dec. 1 and formally acknowledged receipt of the funds at its regular meeting Wednesday, Dec. 2.

The amount of effort a business needs make to show its eligibility is minimal, as Commissioner Susan Roberts said the commissioners wanted to make it as simple as possible for hurting businesses to apply.

"It's a one-page form," Roberts told the Chieftain on Wednesday. "Basically, we just followed the state's rule on how we went about extending that money. All I asked for is a bare minimum of what the state required them to provide."

"Just to be clear, we were given parameters by the state," Commissioner Todd Nash said Wednesday. "We didn't just make our own."

To be eligible, a business that has its main business operations in Wallowa County, is registered with the Secretary of State's Office (if required) and is a for-profit or a 501(c)(3) only has to show one of two facts: either that it was forced to close due to executive orders 20-12 or 20-65 — which were signed by Gov. Kate Brown early in the pandemic — or that, between March 1 and Nov. 30, pandemic-related regulations led to a one-month decline in sales of 25% or more when compared to the same time period in 2019.

Each of the 36 counties in Oregon received a base payout of $500,000 from the state through the CARES Act, Roberts said. The remainder of the $55 million set out to help businesses was allocated based on a county's population.

How the county commissioners will divvy up the funds won't be determined until all the applications are turned in, Roberts said. That is also the case, she said, for what the grant amounts could be and for how they would determine if a business' application should be approved or not.

"We are in discussion determining how we are going to figure that out once we get the applications in. We are not there yet on that part," she said. "I don't know that we will let anybody know what we are determining. I think that might cause more angst than it's worth.

"What we will do is review those forms that come in, have a discussion on how we put that money out and how to distribute it."

She added that it is crucial for businesses to meet the deadline.

"We want to have time to review those. That's why it's due on the 21st at 5 (p.m.) so we have given ourselves enough time."

Funds would likely start being distributed during the first full week of 2021.

"Once we have made that determination, the checks would probably go out by the 6th of January," she said.

Applications can be turned in to Roberts at 101 S River St. in Enterprise, or to the third floor of the Wallowa County Courthouse, also in Enterprise, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

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