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Blueprint Set To Discuss Further Local Stimulus Money, Desloge 'Hesitant' On Additional $1M

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WCOT television
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One million dollars in local stimulus money has been distributed to small businesses in Leon County, as COVID-19 closures squeeze Florida’s economy. City and county officials will meet in the coming week to discuss what’s next.

The Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality has closed its $1 million small business grant program after awarding 497 businesses with nearly 4,600 employees. The local stimulus program was approved by the intergovernmental Blueprint 2000 board almost two weeks ago.

“From the day we approved it, which was a Wednesday, until the following Friday, we literally got $1 million in the hands of small businesses in our community, in tranches of 0-10 employees, 10-20 employees, 20-50 employees,” said County Commission chairman Bryan Desloge.

The grants were capped at $5,000, and Desloge says he knows that won’t make businesses whole.

“It’s not everything to everybody – we certainly are not in a position financially to be able to make everybody right,” the County Commission chair told WFSU Tuesday. “And I’m sure there were people, even with the amount of social media and press we tried to get out there about the program, that might not have heard about it or didn’t qualify for one reason or another – but I’m really proud of what we managed to do.”

The board will meet again next week, and Desloge says he’s hesitant about making another $1 million available for an additional relief package.

“You know, we borrowed against future collections for the million dollars we put out there – meaning we just started collecting that money at the beginning of this year,” Desloge said.

Multiple members of the Blueprint board had floated the idea of a second million dollars on top of the $1 million approved in March. The idea was floated as a way to help more small businesses, and nonprofits.  But Desloge says the focus now should be facilitating businesses’ receipt of federal aid:

“We borrowed and the City and the County both fronted the money – but OEV will have to pay it back. So, when people start taking ta second million, I think you start to really burn up some of the projects we hoped that we would do. I’m a little hesitant … I think now’s the time, with $2 trillion worth of federal money coming down is to figure out how do we access that, and how to we make sure businesses in our community can access that fund.”

Desloge stresses that’s his personal opinion – and adds there may be a sentiment amongst the other 11 members of the Blueprint board to put forth another pot of money. The next Blueprint meeting will take place next Wednesday afternoon.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.