Thousands of small businesses waiting for response on state grant application

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In April, South Dakota was given $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act dollars. In September, Governor Kristi Noem allocated $400 million of those dollars for small business relief grants. Nearly 6,000 applications were completed when the first round closed in October. Now in the new year, thousands of small business owners are still waiting for a response.

“I applied the very first day you were able to apply, which was back in October,” Vanessens Hair Design owner Gloria Kolbeck said. 

Kolbeck’s two Sioux Falls salons saw a huge setback when the pandemic started.

“We were closed for four weeks and you know that takes a big hit and its pretty much impossible to make up that amount of money,” Kolbeck said. “We were definitely down over last year even after we opened.”

“Right away in March was my biggest moment of, I think we’re going to close,” Game Chest owner Amanda Wermers said. 

Wermers has seen months of significant income loss from events she usually hosts at Game Chest.

“In October, I was like, if we don’t see something soon, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Wermers said. 

That’s when South Dakota announced the first round of applications for small business grants from the state’s federal CARES Act dollars.

“The grant proposal from the state was encouraging, but also kind of disappointing, because it was a little too late. Them saying it was going to get paid out by the end of the year, we needed it that minute, we needed it two months before that,” Wermers said. 

The end of the year has come and gone and thousands of small business owners are still waiting.

“So far, I’ve heard nothing,” Kolbeck said. “I check weekly and at one point it said submitted, then it said returned…now they all just say submitted.”

The state sent out an email this week, apologizing for the delay, citing a large number of returned applications with errors and several changes from the federal government in the last week of the year as reasons for the delay.

The email says the funds from the October applications should be processed in the next two to three weeks.

“The money is still going to be helpful because we’re still dealing with the pandemic, we still have people that are missing work,” Kolbeck said. 

While many business owners are hopeful these grants will make a difference in the new year, those still waiting have no idea what to expect.

“It’s not very clear on how they decide who’s getting what and what amount and all the numbers and how they’re deciding these percentages that are given out,” Kolbeck said. 

“So it could be $500, which would be nice but wouldn’t really make a dent or if it is equal to our losses, then it will be significant and we can back pay our rent that we’ve missed on and back pay other bills we’ve missed on and really catch back up and go into 2021 at least equal with where we could have been,” Wermers said. “So I have no idea what to expect and at this point, I’m going to expect probably nothing.”

The state’s small business grant summary shows just over $87.5 million has been paid out to 1,073 small businesses. The state also lists the businesses that have already received grants and how much they were given. 

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