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Struggling businesses in Delaware, Licking counties helped by COVID-19 funds

As coronavirus infection cases soar and more shutdowns loom, communities are continuing to offer businesses a financial boost with loans and grants.



A stack of table markers sit on a shelf on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 at Wolf's Ridge Brewing in Columbus, Ohio.


© Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch
A stack of table markers sit on a shelf on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 at Wolf’s Ridge Brewing in Columbus, Ohio.

This month alone, Delaware County commissioners launched a Small Business Protection Program, offering grants up to $15,000 for small businesses who have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. A pool of $2 million from the county’s general fund has been allocated for the program. 

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More: CAPA leads local recipients of CARES Act grants for the arts community

And the city of Powell, through its Community Improvement Corporation, also launched a first-ever grant program for small businesses, part of a so-called “Together Strong, Together Powell” initiative.

Powell’s funding comes from $200,000 in federal CARES Act money for small businesses (25 or fewer employees), each eligible for up to $10,000.

“A lot of businesses have had to procure cleaning supplies, and some restaurants need help to extend their outdoor dining season,” said city spokeswoman Megan Canavan. In its first week, 10 businesses had applied.

The federal aid trickles down to towns and townships from the state of Ohio, which has given local governments flexibility in how they spend it.

“We’re grateful the state did not prescribe a rigid approach,” said Jon Honeck, a senior policy analyst for the County Commissioners Association of Ohio. 

The typical program offers businesses that specify their need and provide receipts for $5,000 to $10,000 in reimbursements, Honeck said.

Delaware County’s funds come from its general fund, which are used for a variety of county services. Powell’s program requires application through the CARES Act program, which includes a federal audit and year-end deadlines.

The difference relates to flexibility, said Bob Lamb, Delaware County economic development director.

“You’re not under the same time frame as you are under the CARES Act funding. We wanted to make sure that it’s available to as many businesses as possible.”

More: With CARES Act spending deadline looming, local officials in Ohio are calling for flexibility

In Licking County, Ken Oswalt, who served for 20 years as county prosecutor, has taken on the role of compliance officer for CARES Act distributions.



a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Ken Oswalt


© Michael Lehmkuhle/Newark Advocate
Ken Oswalt

Beginning its third round of funding, the county has allocated $750,000 each to its chamber of commerce, Licking County Foundation and Coalition for Housing to be distributed to businesses with up to 50 employees, certain nonprofit groups and renters in order to assist landlords, he said.

The “all hands approach” authorizes the agencies to screen applicants.

“I cannot be inundated with hundreds of applications,” he said. Instead, Oswalt fields questions about eligibility and reviews most requests.

“Our goal is not to make everybody as profitable as they would have been in the absence of a pandemic,” he said, but to make them “viable.”

He called the work “very, very tedious, but rewarding.”

“It’s what government’s supposed to do — provide assistance during national emergencies. We hope we’re making a difference.”

While essential businesses such as food service, health care and public safety are given priority, none are excluded.

More: Federal CARES money paying for litter and trash cleanup in five Columbus neighborhoods

In the city of Delaware, that includes the Woodland Cigar Company, which received a $21,000 loan from the county.

“I put an awning out front and paid off some obligations and now have some cushion for the winter,” said Ed Paxton, owner for 15 years of the downtown Delaware shop.

Revenue was up by 23% due to “a lot more free time on people’s hands,” Paxton said. “People are always going to eat, drink and smoke.”

Applicants typically need to state what the funds are needed for and provide supporting documentation.

In Delaware County that includes a “narrative of the impact the pandemic had on business operations.”

[email protected]

@DeanNarciso

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Struggling businesses in Delaware, Licking counties helped by COVID-19 funds

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