The COVID -19 pandemic has been not only a life threatening health situation but it has also caused a very real economic downturn as well. Once most of Carefree’s 300+ businesses were required to close in mid March, many were facing a very real threat to their continued existence.
Fortunately, from an economic standpoint, on March 27th the Federal Government passed the CARES Act. Through the provisions of this Act, local businesses across the Country became eligible for low interest loans, including forgivable grants in some situations, and/or unemployment benefits to help them weather the financial impact of this pandemic and re-open in some manner after the early surge of people contracting the virus.
But as with many Federal programs, understanding the provisions of the CARES Act and wading through the application procedures was daunting. It was at this point that Steve Prokopek, Carefree’s new Economic Development Director, in concert with Town Administrator Gary Neiss and myself, Les Peterson, resolved that the Town would take a very proactive role with all 300+ of the Town’s businesses regarding the CARES Act.
In early -April, Steve assigned groups of 40 – 50 Town businesses to each of Town Council Members Cheryl Kroyer, John Crane, Michael Krahe, Stephen Hatcher, Vince D’Aliesio and myself. Each then followed up with their assigned Carefree business owners.
Carefree’s objectives in working with our local businesses were simple; 1) to be sure each businesses owner understood the specifics of the programs available through the CARES Act, and 2) to encourage these business owners, where appropriate, to submit their application(s) for participation. In addition, we communicated that Town personnel stood ready to help each business with the application process if help was desired.
While we don’t have exact numbers, from our discussions with Carefree business owners we estimate that upwards of 75% – 80% of them participated in some fashion in one or more of the CARES Act programs. Their benefits received ranged from a low interest loan, some with forgivable portions of up to $10,000, to supplemental Federal unemployment insurance for employees and in some cases to the business owner themselves.
I want to take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to Steve and the participating members of the Carefree Town Council for their considerable efforts. I believe that their efforts helped many Carefree business owners weather the financial downdrafts of the COVID -19 pandemic and continue their businesses in Carefree. Thank you all.
Les Peterson, Carefree Mayor