Powell offering grants to pandemic-affected small businesses

Jim Fischer
ThisWeek

Small businesses in Powell are eligible for a financial boost, courtesy of a new program launched by City Council.

Council, in partnership with the city’s community-improvement corporation, is offering grant funding to local small businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic through the Powell Small Business Grant Program, approved by council Nov. 4.

COVID-19 coronavirus illustration

The city has approved an initial outlay of $200,000 for the program, but up to about $805,000 could be available in future funding installments, said City Manager Andrew White, who called the grant program a “significant effort by the city.”

Each business may apply for a grant of up to $10,000. Eligible businesses are within the city, have 25 or fewer employees and have been affected by COVID-19 business closures or restrictions.

Eligible costs include rent or mortgage payments that were missed in whole or part as a direct result of the stay-at-home orders between March 23 and May 15; personal protective equipment; equipment to extend the outdoor dining season, including patio heaters, tents, etc.; and materials and equipment to allow for safe and distanced shopping and dining, including barriers, signs and other equipment.

“We’ve had a number of businesses inquire about adding shelters or looking at other ways to expand their season or extend their density outside their existing food service areas,” White said. “We’ve always known there was a relationship between these businesses and the city, but the pandemic has really magnified that. In particular, there are a number of food and beverage establishments that drive a lot of economic activity to our local economy.”

Applications will be accepted through Dec. 6 and will be approved on a first-come, first-served basis.

White said the CIC, which was established by the city in 2010 to help drive economic development, is a natural to oversee the program.

“The community-improvement corporation looks forward to partnering with Powell City Council to provide this opportunity for small businesses in Powell,” council member and CIC representative Brian Lorenz said. “We are committed to stepping up, standing together and taking action to lessen the burden for so many businesses that have faced challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic this year.”

“Hopefully, our small businesses that need this help will apply and use it to their best advantage,” council member Melissa Riggins said.

White acknowledged the city has been investigating ways to fund this kind of support for businesses affected by the pandemic and subsequent health guidelines, including an invitation to participate in a loan program sponsored by the Delaware County commissioners and the county’s economic-development office, which the city ultimately declined.

More:Delaware looks to earmark $2.6M in pandemic relief

More:Delaware: Small-business owners say state, CARES Act restrictions hinder recovery

“We struggled with trying to put the pieces together,” White said. “This (grant program) coordinates with the city’s goals and could ultimately lead to a more comprehensive program that would still be relevant post-pandemic.”

“Earlier this year, we had discussed a possible loan program, but there were lots of concerns expressed,” council member Tom Counts said. “I think what we have here is something we can control and that we know our own local businesses are going to benefit from.”

“I think the grant (program) is a great idea, a wonderful way for the businesses to get paid back for the money they had to spend to be able to open under the health department guidelines,” said Pam Miller, Powell Area Chamber of Commerce executive director.

Miller said the chamber could assist local businesses in learning what assistance is available from a variety of sources.

White said the grant program is part of a larger “Together Strong, Together Powell” initiative. He said the city could consider investments in transportation, wayfinding signs, on-street parking and other work to support the local business community.

Full details of program eligibility and applications are available at cityofpowell.us.

County commissioners launch program for small businesses

As part of an ongoing effort to support small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19, the Delaware County commissioners have approved launching a small-business protection program that will offer grants of up to $15,000 to eligible small businesses in Delaware County. 

A pool of $2 million has been allocated for the program.

To be eligible, a business must be either wholly located within Delaware County and/or operate a corporate office within the county; a registered business with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office; a for-profit business with no more than 25 full-time employees and/or unlimited part-time/contract employees; and in one of these targeted industries: hotels/motels, restaurants, retail, medical, technology, professional services and light industrial.

“These are targeted at businesses specifically suffering due to COVID,” county economic-development director Bob Lamb said. “We’ve targeted certain industry sectors, but I think you’ll see mostly those in hospitality, restaurants or events who’ve been affected by the shutdown.”

The deadline to apply is Dec. 4. Full application instructions are available by emailing econdevelopment@co.delaware.oh.us.

Lamb said he expects decisions on funding to be made within a week of the Dec. 4 deadline.

Applicants will need to submit a summary of operation losses sustained because of the COVID-19 pandemic and provide supporting documentation. They also must provide a narrative of the impact the pandemic has had on business operations.

“My fellow commissioners and I are very pleased to be able to offer this small-business protection program to our community,” commissioner Jeff Benton said. “Small businesses are the bedrock of Delaware County’s economy, and we are wholeheartedly committed to helping them weather the challenges of this pandemic.”

Lamb said although the grant program is different in scope from the county’s revolving-loan fund – launched earlier this year and which offers five-year, low-interest loans up to $25,000 to county businesses – “the two very much go hand in hand.”

Thus far, Lamb said, the revolving-loan fund has awarded 12 loans, with two pending approval, totaling more than $300,000.

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