Demand problem contributes to persistent backlog of business subsidies

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A week after an email of apology from the state, more than 2,100 small businesses and nonprofits are still waiting to hear the fate of their application for the Dakota’s COVID-19 Small Business Assistance Grants in Dakota. South.

It’s a story that KELOLAND News has been following since the nominations were filed in October. Since then we have heard a similar problem from many small business owners.

“We were told we had to redo some of the demand,” said Dick Murphy, owner of Mrs. Murphy’s Irish Gifts.

“My request has been rejected for corrections twice,” said Adam Ellsworth, owner of Molten Audio.

“Then he said he had come back, but I didn’t know why,” said Gloria Kolbeck, owner of Vanessens Hair Design.

Almost all of the applicants KELOLAND news spoke with about the Small Business Grants Program had their application returned for correction.

“We got an email saying you have three days to get it to us, you are missing something on your form, but they weren’t going to tell us what it was,” said Amanda Wermers, owner of Game Chest.

“The only information they gave me was that I had provided insufficient documentation, so I spent a day and re-audited my entire application. I couldn’t find anything missing, ”Ellsworth said.

After a week of waiting for clarification from the grant program helpline, Ellsworth learned that a dash was to blame.

“They came back and said my tax ID was broken, that was it, so I wasted a day of work trying to find a number,” Ellsworth said.

Ellsworth is a computer science graduate and spent many years as a web developer before starting his own business. He says many of these types of administrative issues could have been fixed with a few small validation changes made to the online application.

“The actual application process comes only from Salesforce, which is a good quick way to deploy an app, I’m not saying that’s incorrect. But they didn’t put a lot of effort into validation or things that would have saved tons of man hours at the time of processing, ”Ellsworth said.

“With some limited timelines in which we were working, we learned a lot during this process and added these features as we went,” said Cassie Stoeser of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Stoeser says the consulting company that manages the program and applications had to add manpower to help review the many applications returned and learned how to add validation for subsequent applicants.

“We learned a lot during the first round bidding period and made a few minor tweaks to the bid that made it a lot faster,” Stoeser said. “I think there were less comebacks in the second round of candidatures than in the first round.”

As of Monday, 1,838 businesses and nonprofits in the October application process received more than $ 143 million in grants; 2,100 companies are still waiting for a response. No grants were made for the December round of applications, but Stoeser said the state expects both rounds of grants to be released by the end of the month.

“Now things are going a lot faster, the payments are coming out a lot faster,” Stoeser said.

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