Business owners in Denton County affected by COVID-19 have until May 20 to apply for a program that could provide up to $10,000 in grants.

The $2.2 million program called Denton County Operational Plan for Economic Normalization, or OPEN, started May 13 and is funded by non-taxpayer dollars that the county accumulated and set aside from CoServ Capital Credit funds over a 20-year period, according to officials.

Denton County Judge Andy Eads and Economic Development Director Michael Talley joined the Frisco Chamber of Commerce during a virtual event May 14 to go over the program and answer frequently asked questions.

The first phase of the grant program opened to for-profit businesses headquartered in the county that have 50 or fewer employees, Talley said. The grant amount a business receives is based on the percentage of operations the business had to close during the county’s stay-at-home order.

“We want people to apply even if you have received [Paycheck Protection Program funding] or other state or federal programs," Eads said during the virtual event. “You are not precluded from applying. We want the county to be able to help you, too.”

Fully closed businesses are eligible for 100% of the grant, while those partially closed are eligible to receive up to 75% of the grant, Talley said.

The county received over 500 applications after the first day of the program, he said.

In order to apply, a business must have been operating in Denton County as of March 1, 2019, Talley said. Even if a business was operating for several years outside of Denton County, they have to have been in the county since March 1, 2019, he said.

“The auditors want to see the March and April income statements from 2019 and compare those to 2020,” Talley said. “They want to be able to see what your losses are. If you do have a larger financial loss, that will actually move you up a little bit further up to the top.”

However, Eads said financial help may soon become available for new businesses not currently eligible for Denton County OPEN.

“I would anticipate us coming back and doing a subsequent program just for the new businesses for the last year,” he said.

Added grant funding for Denton County businesses in general could become available once the county receives more federal CARES Act funds, Eads said.

“I would anticipate us putting a zero at the end of this because I think this would be more like $20 million versus $2 million,” he said. “That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to apply as much as they can.”

Tellor said there is no deadline for when Denton County businesses must use their grant funds. However, he said businesses need to document how and where funds are used by February 2021, since they will be audited by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

“We just ask for good documentation and accuracy on all those documents that are turned in,” he said.

Click here for more information about Denton County OPEN.