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Local businesses and non-profits still relying on Leon CARES money

Leon CARES still supporting community
Posted at 6:58 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 18:58:36-05

TALLAASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Burrito Border's owner Dave Turknett said he woke up to an email Wednesday morning that he has spent months waiting to see.

"I got up this morning and got an email from Leon CARES that we had been granted our grant, which was huge for us," said Turknett.

Burrito Border had to cut back on hours and even lay off some employees when the pandemic hit. Turknett said he tried to apply for the money during the summer but wasn't approved.

"We didn't make it through the first round. We got all of our paperwork in, but it was exhausted so quickly because everyone needed it. They also held us in line and when they re-funded, they immediately picked up where they left off and we got a message saying 'Hey we're going to re-fund'," Turknett recalled.

The restaurant is close to Tallahassee's college campuses. Turknett says with the students gone and other COVID restrictions, staying afloat was tough.

"You have a lot on your shoulders because not only are you trying to support yourself, but you're trying to make sure a group of employees also has a livelihood, can take care of themselves and pay bills. When you start having to lay off people because it's the only way to stay open it hurts. It's hard to make decisions," he said.

Leon County leaders estimate that nearly $18 million from Leon CARES will go to more than 1,000 businesses by the end of the year.

Leon CARES grants gives businesses a one-time payment of up to $57,500 to spend on bills, payroll, and safety measures. The program was going to end at the end of the month.

"We've been able to work with the state and federal government to get another $4.2 million that we're going to spend into 2021," said Leon County Commission Chairman Rick Minor.

The Commission recently moved $11 million of the Coronavirus Relief funds from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation to pay nearly 90% of the remaining eligible applications for Leon CARES.

The money also provides help to non-profits. Tallahassee Youth Orchestra worked with the Tallahassee Council on Culture & Arts to get the grant a couple of months ago.

"How could we not keep this up? These kids need things that bring joy and allow them to participate together," said Tallahassee Youth Orchestra Executive Director Jeanette Edwards.

That money coming just when the organization ran into a COVID-19 related financial hiccup.

The children once rehearsed at Florida State University thanks to the College of Music. After the pandemic, TYO had to find a new home.

"The Moon opened up their facilities to us and that meant rental fees that we weren't used to," said Edwards.

Now the organization is keeping young people engaged and ensuring there's a place to make it happen.

Applications for the Leon CARES funds are now closed. Another opportunity depends on what the U.S. Congress does. The county is currently working to distribute money to the remaining applicants.

COCA does have a list of resources available for any non-profits on its website, available by clicking here.