SEBRING — One of the hurdles to getting CARES Act funding requests through the process got removed last week.

Jerome Kaszubowski, senior director of Business Services for the Clerk of Courts Office, told the Highlands News-Sun that after former county commissioner and local accountant Jeff Carlson requested a meeting with him and the clerk’s staff, they determined last Tuesday that they did not need to request tax documents from applicants to process requests.

That had been the process until the middle of September, during which time county commissioners had asked Kaszubowski; his director of Compliance and Internal Audit, Heather Woods, and Legislative Affairs/Grants Coordinator Sydney Armstrong to explain why some of the checks seemed to be taking a while to disburse.

Kaszubowski told the Highlands News-Sun on Thursday that the Clerk’s Office would now just use applicants’ W-9 forms.

“That should speed up the process,” Kaszubowski said.

It will not make checks materialize immediately, he said. They would still need to pass the audit.

This is the first phase of CARES Act funding.

The county received $4.6 million to disburse in the first round of CARES Act funding and has tried to spend as much as possible before the end of September.

The original reporting deadline to state officials was Wednesday, Sept. 30. It got moved up to this past Friday.

Armstrong and Business and Economic Development Executive Manager Meghan DiGiacomo presented a plan in July to disburse the funds as follows:

- For-profit businesses — $1,750,000, or 37.8%.

- Non-profit businesses — $250,000, or 5.4%.

- Individuals — $1,250,000, or 27%.

- Community proposals — $250,000, or 5.4%.

- Personal protection equipment (PPE) — $120,000, or 2.6%.

- Testing — $500,000, or 10.8%.

- Administrative/government costs — $513,686, or 11.1%.

Clerk’s documents list the total disbursements, thus far, as:

- $735,500 to businesses.

- $745,500 to individuals.

-$134,350 to community programs.

So far, more than three fourths of the CARES Act cases already approved for payment have been paid or will be paid, according to a document from the Clerk of Courts Office.

As of close of business on Wednesday, 355 checks had been issued and another 142 checks pending — expected to be cut and sent on Friday — out of the 2,173 individuals who had applied for help under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The Clerk’s Office reported on Friday that out of the total number of individual applications, Board of County Commission officials had approved 651, and of those, 550 had gone through the Compliance and Internal Audit department of the Clerk’s Office, under direction of Heather Woods.

Another 101 individual cases were pending review, as of Wednesday, Clerk’s Office documents stated.

As for businesses, the rate of approval has been 58.9% — roughly two thirds.

Out of the 656 that applied for help under CARES, 352 got approved by the county, 278 had passed audits by the clerk and 114 had audits still pending.

Out of those businesses, 102 had checks issued already as of Wednesday. Another 129 had checks pending payment.

The county received 11 community program requests and approved all of them. Nine have passed audit and two are pending audit review.

It’s an approval and payment rate of 72.7%, Clerk’s documents said.

Out of individual cases, 12.7% had concerns and were sent back to county officials for research and correction. To date, 8.7% of individual cases have been sent back for research or correction and are still pending feedback from county staff.

Of business cases, 22.7% had concerns prompting auditors to send them back to the county, and 15.5% are still awaiting an answer.

Of community program cases, 11.1% were sent back to the county for research and correction, and all 11.1% are still awaiting an answer.

Clerk’s documents state that the Clerk’s IT Department is testing and preparing the Community Programs grants electronic interface to help print checks for these cases, which are currently being processed manually.

Documents state the Clerk’s Office also will add additional reviewers to the Internal Audit Department to help make approving cases more efficient and effective.