Southeast Kansas small businesses could get more pandemic relief through state grants

Bourbon County, Fort Scott, applying for pandemic relief grants for small businesses

BOURBON COUNTY, Kan. – For the last 14 years, dishing up good for and cold beer to hungry customers has been Kristy Holmes’ passion.

“My husband had a dream of starting a bar. Started off kind of small and grew into what we have today,” says Kristy Holems, co-owner of Holmtown Pub in Fort Scott.

But the future of that dream was uncertain when they had to temporarily close their doors in March.

“It is very hard being closed for two months. We had a lot of beer that expired, and we didn’t get reimbursed for a lot of that. Some of it we were able to send back. But, utilities still come in regardless of whether you’re opened or not,” Says Holmes.

The dining room at the pub is now open, due in part to a grant through the City of Fort Scott and the Paycheck Protection Program, that helped her pay her utilities and even her employees.

“I think there are a lot of businesses that weren’t going to make it without those grants. And I’m not sure we would have made it as well,” says Holmes.

Fort Scott and Bourbon County officials are planning to apply for their share of nine million dollars in community development block grants that are being sent to the state through the CARES Act.

“Right now, we’re looking county-wide businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The application will be online. It will come out next week, and so we wanted to be prepared,” says Bourbon County Economic Development Director Jody Hoener.

Hoener says not all of the details for the grants are available yet, but here’s what they do know.

The grants are for businesses with between one and 50 employees — and the county (or city) can get a maximum amount of 200 thousand dollars to split among businesses that are struggling.

Hoener is currently asking small business owners to get in touch with her, so local leaders can see how big the need truly is.

“In just a days time, we’ve had over 30 businesses already reach out to us,” says Hoener. “We want to look at the need and see how many businesses are needing grant funds so that on a local level, we could make those decisions. Make those educated decisions on the need versus how much money we have available.”

Homles wants to encourage any small business owner to apply so that they get the same chance to keep on serving that she did.

“You know, at least try and apply for it. Because it is a huge benefit to us. We really appreciate everything they’ve done for us,” says Holmes.

According to Hoener, there isn’t a set timeline for when the grants will be dispursed.

And, in case you were wondering, bars in Fort Scott are being able to reopen their dining rooms, as long as they serve food.

If a bar doesn’t serve food, they can’t reopen dining rooms until May 18th.