By Jeri Davis, This Is Reno
RENO — So many Nevada businesses applied for Pandemic Emergency Technical Support (PETS) grants that the deadline for applications was shortened earlier this week and the pot of funds was doubled from $20 million to $40 million.
The application period for the funds was supposed to close Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. but on Wednesday–day three of the process–the closing date was changed to Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. State Treasurer Zach Conine tweeted late in the afternoon on Oct. 22 : “Any business or non-profit that has started an application prior to today’s 5 p.m. deadline will be able to complete their application until 11:59 p.m. PST on Saturday, October 24.”
That change was met with outrage by those trying to submit applications today. The website was so overloaded, applicants couldn’t complete the process.
Owner of Crawl Reno—the company that organizes Reno’s bar crawls—Ed Adkins was on the PETS application website hosted by ZoomGrants on Wednesday afternoon. He was watching the clock count down on his application period for a grant at 10 minutes before 5 p.m. Not knowing that that the deadline would be extended for businesses that had started their applications prior to the revised Oct. 22 deadline, he watched as the website alerted him that fields within his application were being saved.
“Tech goes to die in the government,” Adkins said. “The government always seems to choose the oldest tin man in a forest when they’re trying to use tech. It is so bad. And it is so funny, because, when they announced this grant, it was like, ‘Hey, we’re here to help.’ They got a lot of people’s hopes up. No one thought to ask the vendor whether it could handle its load. Luckily, Nevadans are used to trying to buy Burning Man tickets. I can’t see anyone having any hope at this point. This is just brutal.”
Adkins had been working on his application for a grant at 10 a.m. this morning. When he encountered troubles, he said he contacted ZoomGrants via email, Facebook and its customer service software, Zendesk.
“This was the first grant that I’ve applied for,” Adkins said. “And if –I can only imagine what everyone else is going through… I’ve gone over half a year with no income. I’m scraping by. I got my hopes up—and now, you know, it would have been better without my hopes up earlier this week…Can you imagine if this website is down?
“There’s thousands of people trying their best right now. And when you start going through the application it does start to become obvious that it was only meant for arts and culture, bars, maybe a couple of other things—but they opened it up to everyone.”
Adkins wonders if businesses for whom the grant was not intended have flooded the system with applications. With another two days now to finish his application, he, like many others, will do their best to finish the application process.
Unanticipated volume of response
According to Erik Jimenez, senior deputy treasurer for the state of Nevada, “The response from the small business community for the Pandemic Emergency Technical Support (PETS) grant program has been tremendous. The decision to move up the application deadline was done to ensure that the businesses that applied for the program could have their applications processed as soon as possible.”
Jimenez also noted that “since the launch of the program, the underlying ZoomGrants website has experienced delays given the volume of applications” and that the state will continue to push for additional funding from the federal government to support state stimulus programs like this one.
He said if a business owner is having trouble accessing the system to finish their application, they should contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance or call 1-800-336-1600. The grants are geared toward small businesses, nonprofits and arts and culture organizations that have been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, Sisolak said of his Office of Economic Development’s program, “I am pleased to see so many small businesses throughout Nevada taking advantage of this new, streamlined program to get access to relief funding and help stimulate our economy during this crisis.”
Getting money to hard-hit businesses
Many of the businesses in question have been through multiple shutdown periods, as has been the case with bars. Others, like live theater companies, have yet to re-open and continue experimenting with virtual events to keep their audience and donor bases engaged.
Earlier this week, Conine said his office and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) “will work diligently to review all submitted applications and vet for eligibility and will then distribute grant funds to successful applicants throughout the month of November and until all funds are exhausted.”
Some 2,000 small businesses, nonprofits and arts and culture organizations are expected to benefit from grants of up to $10,000 that are expected to be provided to recipients within two weeks of the award date.
These monies can be used to pay for myriad expenses, including day-to-day operations, payroll or necessary changes to operations and supplies purchased to meet public health guidelines.
Businesses and organizations who meet the following criteria were eligible to receive PETS grant funding:
- Have a physical location in State (includes home-based businesses);
- Been in operation prior to March 1, 2020;
- Have under 50 employees; and
- Have an annual gross revenue under $4 million.
The Nevada Treasurer’s Office and GOED said that priority will be given to those organizations most impacted by the pandemic—including drinking establishments, arts and culture and non-profit organizations.