- Fred Spriggs

What would you say if I told you someone was walking around Seymour giving away thousands of dollars?

You’d probably call me crazy.

The jury may still be out on that.

However, Terry Penner, Seymour’s administrator for the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (C.A.R.E.S.) Act funding now being distributed in town as part of a federal $4.6 million COVID-19 relief package to Webster County, said last week that she hopes Seymour’s piece of this pie isn’t just the $246,000 now programmed for local businesses, churches and no-profit organizations.

“I’d like to give away all the money allotted to Seymour and then go back to the Webster County Commission and ask for more money,” Terry told me last Friday.

The application process got off to a rocky start in Webster County when the program was kicked off early last month, with a bulky and confusing 18-page application form.

The Webster County Commission — courtesy of what I’m told was some urging from Dan, Terry and City Administrator Hillary Gintz — quickly cut 16 pages from the document, and it’s now so simple that if I had a local small business, I could probably fill out the form, as long as Terry corrected all my mistakes.

With the new two-page application form in her hand, Terry started out contacting businesses which were most likely to have suffered the most from the COVID-19 pandemic — those deemed non-essential and were fully closed during the statewide shutdown ordered by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson in April.

Next on Terry’s list were businesses partly opened and partly closed (for example, restaurants), followed by businesses that were allowed to stay open during the shutdown but were affected by it in some way or other.

I’m not even going to try and explain some of the types of expenditures covered by what’s called “Phase Two” of the C.A.R.E.S. Act package.

Sigel Owen, director for the county’s C.A.R.E.S. program, has put together an information package that covers what appears to be just about everything you need to know to fill out the form, as well as what accompanying documents you’ll need to submit.

There are three things to remember about Phase Two of the C.A.R.E.S. program.

First, it’s not a program that allows “loss of revenue” to be considered as an eligible expense.

The second is the deadline for Phase Two applications is Sept. 18.

Phase Two covers expenses from the period from July 1 through Aug. 31.

Third, the minimum amount that may be applied for is $100, and the maximum amount that may be awarded to non-profit organizations and private businesses is $7,500.

Unlike a lot of federal government programs that have missed Seymour in years gone by (old-timers will remember when Marshfield and Mansfield got outdoor city swimming pools and Seymour didn’t or when other towns got overpasses when Highway 60 became U.S. 60 about 50 years ago, and Seymour didn’t), the first phase of C.A.R.E.S. assistance already has benefited one Seymour business owner.

Last week, a check for $7,500, the maximum amount allowed under the program, was presented by Terry to Andy Cook, owner of Ozark Mountain Natural Health.

Cook told the Citizen that the C.A.R.E.S. money was a blessing.

To keep his business operating during the pandemic shutdown, he had to borrow money to purchase equipment to allow patients to meet via teleconference visits. Cost of the equipment was $20,000.

Several more C.A.R.E.S. Act checks are being cut to Seymour businesses this week by the county, well ahead of other communities in Webster County.

Terry told me her goal is to hopefully have applications approved by the county and into an applicants’ hands in a week, once she receives them.

So, don’t tarry if you have expenditures that could be eligible for reimbursement under the program.

Terry’s already contacted about 50 local small businesses, and several of them are submitting their packages this week.

However, if you’ve not heard from her, give Terry a call at 417-425-9589; she’ll then be able to provide business owners, churches or local non-profit organizations the forms and information needed to apply for funds.

She’s also in her office at Seymour City Hall, located on the northwest corner of the square, on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Seymour’s aldermen couldn’t have made a better choice when picking a person to run this program.

Federal and state leaders should take notes.

Fred Spriggs is the former news editor of the Webster County Citizen, a position he held for nearly 15 years. He now lives in rural Stone County in retirement with his wife, Julie, who also is a native of Seymour.

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