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For Immediate Release
June 17, 2022
Nicole Gibbs


CEDBR Report: Safe Operating Grants Saved Jobs, Businesses During Pandemic

(Sedgwick County, Kan.) – Nearly two years after the Sedgwick County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) decided to use $8.3 million in CARES and SPARK funding to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic, they are now learning just how successful their efforts were. A new report by WSU’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research (CEDBR) shows the Safe Operating Grant Program saved thousands of jobs, created new positions, and boosted the local economy in many ways.

Starting in August 2020, Sedgwick County awarded grants up to $5,000 each to 1,295 businesses to help with pandemic-related expenses, including rent, utilities and personal protective equipment. That infusion of cash, according to the report, helped businesses retain 18,580 jobs and create 56 new ones. It also had a ripple effect, creating more demand from local consumers and other businesses. The study concludes that for every 100 jobs supported by this grant program, 43 additional jobs benefitted indirectly.

“Small businesses are often quoted as being the foundation of a community, as they provide services and goods at the neighborhood level. The funding provided not only supported one of the hardest hit segments, but it also injected liquidity into the market for those firms to remain agile during the turbulent time,” said Jeremy Hill, CEDBR Director.

Sedgwick County also funded workforce development facilities, including Friends University, Wichita State University Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology, and the Workforce Alliance of South-Central Kansas. The grants totaling nearly $1.9 million provided personal protective equipment and other pandemic-related support.

Helping small businesses keep their employees and hire new ones during the pandemic created an impressive stimulus effect in Sedgwick County. As the table below shows, CEDBR estimates that labor income and total economic output jumped by several million dollars, bringing in an additional $115 million in state and local taxes.

The overall impact of the Safe Operating Grant Program was even better than the BoCC had hoped.

“When we distributed that money two years ago, we knew that many small businesses were struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, and we wanted to get them help fast,” said David Dennis, Chairman of the BoCC. “It’s rewarding to see that this funding provided an instant lifeline to business owners and also enhanced the Sedgwick County economy for years to come.”