Pandemic relief grants offered for Ohio small businesses - WLWT Cincinnati

Pandemic relief grants offered for Ohio small businesses - WLWT Cincinnati


Pandemic relief grants offered for Ohio small businesses - WLWT Cincinnati

Posted: 02 Nov 2020 02:51 PM PST

Like many small business owners, this year has been a struggle for Kristen Bailey, owner of Sweets and Meats Barbeque."We lost over 160 events this year. It's about $400,000 in revenue that we had no idea how we were going to make that up," Bailey said. To make up some of the losses, Bailey and her employees have put in 80 hour work weeks and driven their food trucks to other cities, two hours outside of Cincinnati to make money.So, when Bailey heard about a new pandemic relief program the state was launching Monday, with money from the CARES Act, Bailey wasted no time preparing the paperwork needed for the application process. This program is different from others, as only businesses with no more than 25 employees are eligible.Knowing money would be given out on a first come, first served basis, Bailey was ready to apply when the website went live this morning."I created my login ID, created my password, wanted to be ready when it launched, and then for some reason there was a glitch with the system," Bailey said. For nearly two hours, error messages were popped up. Small business owners across the state had the same problem and tweeted their frustrations.Todd Walker, spokesperson for the Ohio Development Services Agency released a statement saying, "Due to great interest in the Small Business Relief grant & the Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund programs, some customers are experiencing delays. We encourage applicants to retry submitting their applications."By noon, Bailey was able to submit her application. Now, it's wait and see."Even if we don't get it, if 50 restaurants in Cincinnati do get this grant, and it's a small mom and pop, that's 50 businesses potentially that we're saving," Bailey said. Fifty small businesses in each county in Ohio will receive a $10,000 grant.A similar program was also launched Monday for liquor permit holders. The Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund is designed to assist Ohio's on-premise liquor permit holders by giving them $2,500 each.The Development Services Agency is also allocating $50 million to 47 Community Action Agencies to provide rent, mortgage, and water and/or sewer assistance to Ohioans in need. The Home Relief Grant will help eligible Ohioans pay outstanding rent, mortgage, and water and/or sewer utilities to avoid shutoff, foreclosure or eviction.More information on the grants can be found here:https://businesshelp.ohio.gov/

Like many small business owners, this year has been a struggle for Kristen Bailey, owner of Sweets and Meats Barbeque.

"We lost over 160 events this year. It's about $400,000 in revenue that we had no idea how we were going to make that up," Bailey said.

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To make up some of the losses, Bailey and her employees have put in 80 hour work weeks and driven their food trucks to other cities, two hours outside of Cincinnati to make money.

So, when Bailey heard about a new pandemic relief program the state was launching Monday, with money from the CARES Act, Bailey wasted no time preparing the paperwork needed for the application process. This program is different from others, as only businesses with no more than 25 employees are eligible.

Knowing money would be given out on a first come, first served basis, Bailey was ready to apply when the website went live this morning.

"I created my login ID, created my password, wanted to be ready when it launched, and then for some reason there was a glitch with the system," Bailey said.

For nearly two hours, error messages were popped up. Small business owners across the state had the same problem and tweeted their frustrations.

Todd Walker, spokesperson for the Ohio Development Services Agency released a statement saying, "Due to great interest in the Small Business Relief grant & the Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund programs, some customers are experiencing delays. We encourage applicants to retry submitting their applications."

By noon, Bailey was able to submit her application. Now, it's wait and see.

"Even if we don't get it, if 50 restaurants in Cincinnati do get this grant, and it's a small mom and pop, that's 50 businesses potentially that we're saving," Bailey said.

Fifty small businesses in each county in Ohio will receive a $10,000 grant.

A similar program was also launched Monday for liquor permit holders. The Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund is designed to assist Ohio's on-premise liquor permit holders by giving them $2,500 each.

The Development Services Agency is also allocating $50 million to 47 Community Action Agencies to provide rent, mortgage, and water and/or sewer assistance to Ohioans in need. The Home Relief Grant will help eligible Ohioans pay outstanding rent, mortgage, and water and/or sewer utilities to avoid shutoff, foreclosure or eviction.

More information on the grants can be found here:

https://businesshelp.ohio.gov/

State works to fill the pandemic gaps with Small Business Relief Grants - Crain's Cleveland Business

Posted: 01 Nov 2020 01:00 AM PST

With about two months left to spend nearly $1 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds, Ohio authorities passed a $419.5 million aid package. The bulk of it, $125 million, is going to help small businesses.

Ohio's Small Business Relief Grants (SBRG) of $10,000 will be available for businesses with no more than 25 employees to help mitigate the financial damage from the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent economic downturn.

The state's plan focuses on smaller businesses and is designed to be a "quick shot" to boost the economy as it contends with the pandemic, according to Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Development Service Agency, which will distribute the funds.

"We want to get the $125 million out to those who could most use $10,000 right now," Mihalik said. "Businesses with 500 employees cannot do as much with $10,000 as a smaller business would."

The program prioritizes distributing the grants to smaller businesses that may have missed other federal relief efforts such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) initiative. It's designed, as Mihalik puts it, "to make sure that there was some sense of regional distribution."

Under the SBRG program, $500,000 (representing 50 grants) will be dedicated specifically to each of Ohio's 88 counties until Nov. 23. If all those funds, which total $44 million, are not spent, the money will be added to the $81 million available to any business in the state, regardless of location, on a first-come, first-served basis until all $125 million is awarded.

With more than 950,000 companies falling under the small business designation in Ohio, Mihalik said she's confident the grants will be in high demand.

But that anticipated high demand, coming months into the pandemic, has some people questioning if the program provides too little help, too late.

"Families and businesses have been suffering for some time now," said state Rep. Terrence Upchurch, a Democrat representing District 10, which includes Cleveland. "Businesses in my district and districts all over the state of Ohio have already closed their doors permanently."

Upchurch, along with other members of his party, criticized Republican Gov. Mike DeWine for waiting so long to release the federal funds, which if not spent by the end of the year are slated to revert to the federal government. He's also concerned by what he sees as the state's insular process, which was not done legislatively, in creating the program, and he worries that businesses most affected by the pandemic still will be left behind.

The Beachland Ballroom & Tavern, Upchurch points out, has been looking for economic relief to supplement truncated cash flow coming only from occasional food sales, online merchandise sales or hosting of socially distanced, outdoor or livestreamed shows.

Beachland's Cindy Barber, who has lost the majority of her normal concert season revenue and operates at a margin as thin as 1% during a normal year, has been holding out hope for passage of the federal Save our Stages Act, which would allocate millions in stimulus funds for indie music concert venues across the country.

Barber received some assistance this year in the form of PPP and EIDL, but she's now using credit and donations to cover other gaps. Barber said she plans to apply for the $10,000 small business grant from the state. But the reality is the money, if she gets it, will be a drop in a deep bucket in the context of her financial needs.

"To me, right now, $10,000 is like, one payroll and a couple bills. That maybe gets me another 15 days," Barber said. "Proportionally, that is not going to save the Beachland."

According to an Oct. 23-26 survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Center, 90% of PPP recipients have spent the funds and are ready to apply for loan forgiveness.

In Ohio, 88% of NFIB members who spent their PPP funds used it mainly on wages, utilities and rent or lease costs.

About 75% of small businesses nationwide said they would apply for a second PPP loan, and 52% of owners anticipate needing additional financial support over the next 12 months.

Michael Obi, who oversees the entrepreneurship center for the Urban League of Cleveland, is appreciative of the SBRG program but worries it will not be enough for a county as large as Cuyahoga.

"Fifty grants per county for Cuyahoga County is a drop in the bucket, and you can imagine the money will be gone within 48 hours after it opens up," Obi said.

Cuyahoga County, according to 2018 U.S. Census data, has 32,254 total "employer establishments," or business locations, with a corresponding 667,707 employees. By contrast, neighboring Lake County has 5,908 employer establishments and 85,772 in total employment.

Overall, though, the SBRG program is a positive for the region's struggling business owners, Obi said.

"Every little bit helps, because it is $10,000, and that is a lot of money if you're trying to survive, when you are trying to pay rent and make payroll or just trying to keep the doors open on a restaurant or operating at 50% capacity if you have a barber shop," he said.

Obi said the region needs targeted grants for those companies he knows are hurting badly, rather than creating a first-come, first-served system requiring online capabilities to sign up. He also worries the program's W-2 wage requirement may be too restrictive.

Tony Jones, the owner of T.J.'s Barbershop on Cleveland's East Side, plans to apply for one of the $10,000 grants when the state's portal opens on Monday, Nov. 2. Under the program's terms, though, it appears that he will not qualify. The other barber in Jones' shop is an independent contractor. He does not have any W-2 employees.

"The grant would pay my rent for a year, and my utilities, and allow me to take whatever I get out of here and add to the contribution at home — which has been minimal, because people are slow to come back because of the virus," he said.

Jones, who has been a barber for three decades and a business owner for 11 years, was forced to close his shop on East 105th Street from mid-March to mid-May during a statewide shutdown. He struggled to get unemployment, even after the state began accepting applications under an expanded program that covered self-employed workers.

Many of his customers are elderly. They're still afraid to come in. And the financial strain on his patrons, who live nearby or have roots in the neighborhood, has increased.

"We missed out on so much during the shutdown," Jones said. "And with the schools not going back to school, we missed out on back-to-school haircuts. Proms. Graduations."

He has been looking for additional grant and loan programs that might help him sustain his small business and support his family. With the state putting money on the table, Jones said, he will at least try to compete.

There are significant complexities in setting up a grant program to deal with economic hardship of this magnitude in the state, Mihalik said. Nonetheless, she said she's confident the SBRG program will help Ohio businesses.

"We have gone through a process in developing these programs and seeing what the need is out there and we pinpointed different areas where we really thought we could make an impact," she said.

But in light of the NFIB's finding that 20% of small business owners expect to have to close their doors if current economic conditions do not improve over the next six months, Mihalik stresses the importance of these grants going out as soon as possible.

"The total economic impact is not going to be totally understood for quite some time, but we are going to continue to keep our eyes open and ear to the ground and get these dollars out the door," she said.

Crain's reporters Michelle Jarboe and Jeremy Nobile contributed to this story. 

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