Delaware County's Economic Recovery Advisory Team is working to create a revolving loan program intended to lend a hand to the county's small businesses suffering in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The program, spearheaded by Delaware County Finance Authority member Don Rankey on behalf of the team, has secured more than $3.25 million in funding from local governments and governmental agencies and is seeking a matching grant through Jobs Ohio, a statewide economic-development agency.

"We're very confident we'll get some funding (from JobsOhio), and we feel we put together a strong proposal for the full amount," Rankey said.

The Economic Recovery Advisory Team was created by Delaware County commissioners in response to economic conditions resulting from COVID-19. The revolving-loan program is one of a number of initiatives of the team, which is led by county economic-development director Bob Lamb.

"It's historic. No other county in the state is trying to do something like this, at least on this scale," Rankey said.

Commissioners voted May 14 to allocate $2.5 million to the fund.

"The commissioners have a responsibility to the fiscal health of the county," said commissioner Gary Merrell. "We have to think about how to fulfill that responsibility. This is an opportunity to do that."

Both Orange and Liberty townships have approved $250,000 in funding, as has the Delaware County Finance Authority.

Rankey said his team is working with local governments and other entities to obtain additional funding.

Orange Township trustee Ryan Rivers spoke in support of the effort, calling it "something of great value for our business, especially our small businesses."

"I've reviewed our township finances and ... I'm pleased we're in a position to support this program," Liberty Township fiscal officer Rick Karr told trustees May 14, when the township approved its support.

Liberty Township formed its own such team, intended to ensure businesses in the township were made aware of this and other recovery assistance available to them.

"It will advise the board and identify opportunities to help small businesses get back on their feet," trustee Shyra Eichhorn said.

Powell City Council discussed participation in the program at its May 19 meeting.

No decision was made, as council members voiced questions about whether a seat on the loan board could be secured if the city allocated less than $250,000, and if Powell businesses would benefit from also being in Liberty Township, which already contributed funds.

Rankey and Lamb told council members both of those issues would have to be addressed with the commissioners, who set $250,000 as the minimum contribution for a board seat, and with Liberty Township trustees.

Discussion also took place about whether this kind of activity fits the city's objectives for investing in economic development.

If the loan program is awarded matching funds from JobsOhio, it will be able to offer upwards of 200 loans to county businesses, Rankey said.

The loans would be in the $10,000 to $25,000 range and could be used to cover up to four months of rent, mortgage and/or utilities payments, he said, allowing businesses to allocate other money toward staffing and inventory.

The loan terms would extend five years at an interest rate no higher than 4% and an initial rate of 3%. First payments also could be deferred up to six months.

Buckeye State Bank has agreed to manage the program, Rankey said, with both the bank and a board created by the commissioners to oversee the fund having mechanisms to score applicants.

A draft scoring system for the loan-program board includes increases for businesses in townships and cities whose governments funded the program.

The board will include up to three representatives of local governments within the county that provided funding.

Rankey said the program could be running by the end of May, though there is no fixed timeline to start.

"Businesses need this money now," he said.

"We want to get the money out there as fast as we can."

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