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Augusta small business relief application raises concerns



AUGUSTA, Ga. – Some Augusta small business owners are displeased with the city’s application process for relief grant money and they are bringing their frustration and concerns before Augusta commission. According to city leaders the application process on average can take around three hours.

“It was asking entirely too much information and I went on the federal side and applied in fifteen minutes with none of the stuff that was asked on the local side. And I was just wondering why it was so hard to apply for this because I gave up, I didn’t want go no further,” said Graylen Bell who is a small business owner.

The city administrator says its all federal dollars and the city’s application is asking the same questions that the federal government requires be answered in applying for its loan. The only difference is Augusta is not just gathering the basic info and asking more questions later. It’s asking everything up front.

“When you guys first came out with the $5,000 grant, that grant was so difficult I even let my lawyer look at it. And she was like ‘are you sure you want to do this?, for 5 thousand dollars this is something for a corporation.’ Now you guys just came out with the $7,500 and still made it a little more difficult to be able to receive it,” said Anaya Price who is a small business owner.

FOX 54 spoke with Hawthorne Welcher who is the Director of Augusta Housing and Community Development. He says the application consists of 14 requirements. The first four requirements verifies that an applicant owns a small business in Augusta Richmond County.

“The other remaining 10 items are items that protect Augusta from a quarterly and a annual audit. These are federal funds once again. So from an auditing stand point these are documents that we have to have,” said Welcher.

Welcher says although there has been some complaints from some business owners the city has been able to award funds to around 118 business to date.

“I think its also fair to put out that there has been nobody to date that there has been totally disapproved for a small business relief application. There may be a situation where we say not right now because there’s some documentation that they may be missing but at the end of the day there’s nobody that’s been completely turned away,” said Welcher.

Welcher says the city did relax on some requirements. Credit reports from applicants are not required but are typically required for lending and he also says applicants do not have to provide collateral or capital.