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FLORENCE — Sixty-four businesses in unincorporated Pinal County received checks totaling $529,071 to help cover their losses related to the pandemic and the state’s recent stay-at-home order, and the Pinal County Board of Supervisors expressed an interest in extending and possibly expanding the program.

The county accepted applications for funding from its Business Sustainability Program for one month ending July 15. The program received 135 applications; 62 were denied and nine were withdrawn.

“The infrastructure is still in place” if the board wishes to continue it, Joel Millman, project lead, told the board Wednesday.

Board Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, asked what funds are available to continue the program and if it should be expanded to include home-based businesses and nonprofit organizations.

County Manager Louis Andersen said the board originally allocated $5 million for the program, so funds are still available. He recommended that it not be extended to businesses in cities and towns that have their own CARES Act funds or to home-based businesses.

He further recommended that the program not include nonprofits, which received funding from the county’s U.S. Community Development Block Grant allocation for COVID-19 relief. Andersen said he would soon bring a recommended action before the board to continue the program for an additional 30 days, possibly with fewer restrictions.

“I like what I’m hearing,” Supervisor Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, said. “I’m a licensed clinical social worker. I haven’t said much, because my four Republican conservative colleagues are talking like social workers, and I love it. Because they want to help people (and) they want to help businesses. So let’s move forward, and I’m with you.”

Rios further gave credit to Andersen, who could have said the county’s long-awaited CARES Act funding was needed just to reimburse the county. Instead, Andersen suggested the county offer to help its struggling businesses, “so I want to thank him, too,” Rios said.

Meeting behind closed doors, the board heard legal advice pertaining to the state’s distribution of federal CARES Act funds for expenses related to COVID-19. When the board met in open session again, it voted to continue until Sept. 9 a decision on correspondence to Gov. Doug Ducey about CARES Act funds and directing the Pinal County attorney to explore legal action.

The board voted previously in May to sue the federal government and force Ducey to distribute CARES Act funds equally but backed off when some funds were finally released.

Also Wednesday, sitting as the Pinal County Public Health Services District Board of Directors, the supervisors authorized an emergency contract with Insight Global to assist public health personnel with case investigation, contact tracing, data entry and other personnel services and equipment as necessary to respond to COVID-19 issues.

A full contract will be negotiated, reviewed by legal counsel and brought before the Board of Supervisors for a vote at a future date.


Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at