Wyoming CARES ACT funding is requested to be paid back, some businesses report
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Over eight thousand businesses throughout the state of Wyoming received a portion of $420 million dollars in CARES Act funding that was distributed by the federal government to businesses to help them survive and set themselves up to thrive in the future.
But Josh Dorrell, the Executive Director of the Wyoming Business Council, says that not all the funds were acquired on the up and up.
“Unfortunately, there are folks out there who look at ways to take advantage of systems and, and, you know,” he admits. “You’re going to have folks out on the edges, who maybe shouldn’t have taken advantage of these programs, but did.”
Dorrell points out that a number of checks and balances were put in place to hamper any attempts to defraud the process.
“As we rolled these programs out, and afterwards, we analyzed the data to really understand what businesses needed to be audited,” he explains. “And we worked with a third party auditing company that does this for a living.”
Dorrell says that of the $420 million that was distributed, about $8.5 million dollars were requested to be repaid.
Tony Beaverson, who owns Big Horn Cinemas in Cody, says he was one of those who voluntarily returned funds - in his case, $160,000 - because he knew he wouldn’t be able to spend the money within the time allowed by the rules set for that particular fund.
“The total amount that I was granted with $510,000,” he explains. “I returned $160,000, which was the entire Mitigation Fund, which was basically for expenses specifically related to COVID. It was very date specific - the money had to be spent by December of 2020.”
And he points out that he applied for the funding knowing that there was a chance he could be audited, so he says he made sure he had his numbers correct.
But many other businesses were forced to return thousands of dollars each, according to Dorrell.
“We ended up auditing, I believe is 334 businesses, maybe even more, and taking a look at the specifics of how they applied, what the numbers that were that they used, and whether that was appropriate use of funds or not.”
But Dorrell adds that it’s not within the Wyoming Business Council’s authority to investigate fraud - they’re leaving that task to other agencies.
“We’re working with the proper authorities at the federal level, to be able to investigate and, and really take care of those situations.”
Dorrell adds that some business owners may face criminal charges - but on the whole, he believes Wyoming businesses acted responsibly.
“You’re always going to have those folks who break the rules and look for those opportunities,” he admits. “But I’m just really impressed when I hear stories like that - people saying, ‘look, I didn’t need the money. I don’t deserve the money. I’m going to give it back.’ To me that says a lot about our businesses in Wyoming.”
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