Boardwalk Shuffle

A man walks down Center Street in March, two days after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Teton County. State and federal funds helped many businesses survive.

State is on the hunt for COVID fund fraud

If your business or nonprofit received funds from the state’s COVID-19 Business Relief Program, make sure you have your supporting documents in order.

The Wyoming Business Council, which administers the program, said it set up a process to audit businesses and nonprofits that received grants from the program, which was created to compensate for COVID-19-related losses and extra expenses.

The council, the state’s economic development agency, also created a way to report instances in which someone might have received money they shouldn’t have or used the money improperly. Tips can be shared anonymously at WyomingBusiness.Org/covid19.

The state Legislature created the relief program to disburse $325 million from the pandemic aid package that the U.S. Congress approved in the spring. The program has five funds: the Interruption, Relief and Mitigation funds, which are already closed, and the Agriculture and Endurance funds, which will close this evening.

“The safety and security of the distribution of these federal dollars is paramount to the state of Wyoming, and we have an established process to make sure we are being good stewards of these funds,” Business Council CEO Josh Dorrell said in a press release. “We encourage anyone who has concerns about where and how these funds have been dispersed or businesses or nonprofits that received money to please share that information through our anonymous tip form.”

Each application is reviewed by the Business Council, Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office and the Wyoming State Auditor’s Office to verify the business or nonprofit meets eligibility criteria.

“Through this process, 6% of applications were rejected in the first three funds,” the press release said.

The Business Council said it will contract with MHP LLP of Cheyenne to conduct third-party financial audits on businesses that received grants.

More details about the audit process, including informational webinars, is coming.

Those who received money should be prepared to produce documentation used to complete their applications, including the following:

• 2019 tax documentation (Schedule C, Schedule F, Form 1065, Form 1120, Form 990)

• EIN Registration Letter (IRS Form SS-4)

• Profit and loss statements

• Income statements

• Proof of other Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds received

• Receipts and/or invoices related to COVID-19 expenses incurred.

“Per program rules, the Business Council may conduct and contract for audits of entities receiving funding under this program to ensure awarded dollars are expended in compliance with state and federal law,” the release said.

“Anyone knowingly making a false statement to obtain funding under these programs may require total or partial repayment of the funds and is punishable under the law, including under 18 USC 1343 by imprisonment of not more than 30 years and/or a fine of up to $1 million and Wyo. Stat. Ann. 6-3-402 by imprisonment of not more than 10 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.”

Current rules may be found online at Rules.Wyo.gov.

— Staff report

Jennifer Dorsey is chief copy editor and Business section coordinator. She worked in Washington, D.C., and Chicago before moving to the Tetons.

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