CARES help available to small businesses

LISBON — Local small business hit hard by COVID-19 and the government’s response to the pandemic can seek financial assistance under a program begun by Columbiana County commissioners.

Under the program, qualifying businesses can seek up to $10,000 under what is called the county Small Business Relief Grant Program. A grant does not have to be repaid.

“I’m sure there are some businesses that have been drastically affected and they sure could use the money,” said commissioner Jim Hoppel, speaking at Wednesday’s commission meeting. “This will give us an opportunity to help them out.”

To fund the program, commissioners are using $250,000 of the $2.2 million it has received so far under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) passed by Congress in April to help federal, state and local governments, businesses and individuals impacted by the fallout from COVID-19.

To qualify for the new grant program, the business must have employed no more than 50 people as of March 22, have less than $3 million in annual gross revenue/receipts, and experienced a 35 percent decline in revenue in any 30-day period this year when compared to March-September 2019.

Applicants are required to disclose if they have received any other COVID-19 relief, such as through the Payment Protection Program or the Emergency Loan Program. Tad Herold, director of the county Office of Economic Development, said the goal is to help smaller businesses which may not have qualified for any of the other assistance programs.

“It’s my understanding there’s a lot of small businesses that didn’t qualify or couldn’t get funding” through other assistance programs, he said. “This is really to help the main street businesses, at least that’s what we’re hoping.”

Ineligible businesses include adult entertainment, banks, savings and loans, credit unions, E-commerce, liquor stores, vaping stores, tobacco stores, cannabis dispensaries and franchise businesses that are not locally owned or independently operated.

Eligible expenses includes mortgage payments, rent or lease payments, non-government utility bills, wages, materials and supplies, personal protective equipment, and to replace lost income for sole-proprietor businesses.

For further details and to download an application, Herold is advising businesses to go to their website at oed.columbianacodev.org and click on the links. Also helping administer the program is the county port authority and the new county tourism board.

Herold said they are working under a tight deadline. Uncommitted CARES money has to be returned to the county treasurer by Nov. 20 so the money can be used elsewhere within the county. The federal government wants all of the unspent money returned by Dec. 31.

“Applicants have the next couple of weeks to get their applications in so we can get them approved and the money spent,” he said, adding the looming deadline is why they only earmarked $250,000 for the grant program.

As mentioned above, CARES money can be spent on the portion of wages incurred dealing with COVID-19. Herold pointed out commissioners approved using $67,124 in CARES funding to reimburse the county health department for coronavirus-related personnel expenses.



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