Marion County building. (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)

Marion County is acting quickly to push out a second round of grants intended to help small businesses struggling with the pandemic after receiving fewer applications for the funding than it initially anticipated.

Now, the county has now opened its grant program to all businesses in Marion County with 25 or fewer employees that have not received funding in the first round of grants.

Applications for the second round are due by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 18. Applications can be found on the county’s website.

Initially, the county sought to direct $3.5 million in grant funding to restaurants, food carts, commercial kitchens, camps, RV parks, hotels and pools. The money is part of $55 million set aside by Gov. Kate Brown following a new set of pandemic restrictions.

The county originally planned to give each eligible business the same grant amount. It anticipated about 1,360 applications and grants to be about $2,500 each.

But Marion County didn’t receive as many applications as it anticipated, said county spokeswoman Jolene Kelley. Because the grant is funded by federal pandemic relief dollars it needs to be distributed by Dec. 30 or returned.

 “We would rather get the money out into the community than return to the federal government,” said Kelley. She said the county is using broader eligibility criteria for the second round because so many businesses have “fallen through the cracks.”

Kelley stressed that because the county is under a tight timeline that applications need to be complete and accurate. Questions can be directed to the Marion County Board of Commissioners at [email protected] or 503-588-5212.

She said that some applications from the first round were incomplete or weren’t eligible under the original criteria. The county is still processing applications from the first round, said Kelley, who didn’t have numbers for how many applied and how many were approved. The county still expects to distribute nearly $1.5 million to hospitality businesses in the first round of grants.

If the county receives more applications than it can fund, it will use a lottery system to determine which businesses to award grants to.

Earlier this month, Polk County launched its $1.25 million grant program for businesses affected by the pandemic. Polk County Administrator Greg Hansen did not immediately respond to an email about the status of the program.

The city of Salem has also begun distributing $200,000 to help local bars and restaurants set up outdoor seating. The current pandemic restrictions prohibit indoor dining but allow outdoor seating, as well as takeout and delivery.

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 Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.