Missoula County revokes $19K job retention grant; will re-award to new business

Missoula County on Tuesday agreed to revoke a $19,000 grant earmarked for local job retention during the pandemic and reissue the award to another business.

Commissioners approved the funding request for 27 local businesses on Jan. 5 after opening the application period, which netted more than 125 submissions for funding.

Morgan-Pierce law firm was among the chosen grantees.

“With the materials submitted as part of their application package, they met all the eligibility requirements, including the job retention criteria,” said Melissa Gordon. “What became clear last week in email communications about the contract was that they didn’t meet the job retention criteria for the grant and were ineligible for funding.”

Gordon, manager of grants for the county, said more than 125 businesses applied for the limited pool of funding, which totaled $625,000. The award amounts ranged from $10,000 to $25,000 and the majority of the funds – 58% – went to the food and drink industry.

The awards were offered on a first-come, first-serve basis to businesses that met a list of qualifications, including 50 or fewer employees and the retention of at least one full-time employee who was considered low to moderate income.

The grants could not be used when alternative sources of public or private financing was available, such as relief from the federal government.

“I might be bringing another contract revocation to you,” Gordon told commissioners on Tuesday. “There’s another grantee that has some concerns about duplication of benefits with the Paycheck Protection Program loan they might accept.”

After announcing the 27 selected businesses, the county received criticism from some who questioned the geographic distribution of the grants. Most, if not all of the businesses that received funding, were based in the Missoula urban area.

Gordon said the $19,000 award could go back into the county’s Revolving Loan Fund, where it originated. But commissioners may consider awarding the grant to a business outside the city limits, if a qualifying business exists.

“I know there was some concerns, especially in the Seeley Lake area, with folks with less than adequate Internet technology being at a disadvantage in being able to – in a timely fashion – cobble together their applications,” said commissioner Dave Strohmaier.

Gordon said she will go back through the original list of applications received by the county and bring commissioners a list of qualified businesses outside Missoula.

“We have a huge list of businesses that requested funding and didn’t get funding,” she said. “We haven’t gone through an eligibility check of the folks who are still left in line.”

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