County grants available for small businesses in underserved communities

An additional $8 million is now available through the Columbus-Franklin County Small Business Recovery Fund to help central Ohio small businesses continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grant funding will be prioritized for businesses that are located in underserved communities and are minority-, woman- or veteran-owned.

“Small businesses are the backbone and job creators of our community,” said Franklin County Commission president Erica Crawley. “We know that they were impacted significantly by the pandemic and their recovery has been slow. We’re here to provide a fund that offers stability and growth.”

Crawley said about 100,000 businesses closed in the first six months of the pandemic and an estimated 3.5 million women lost or left their jobs for a variety of issues, including lack of childcare.

“Many businesses still struggle and many childcare centers haven’t yet reopened. That’s why this cooperative effort is so important now,” she said.

The program is sponsored by the city of Columbus and Franklin County, which provided equal funding. The Ohio Small Business Development Center at Columbus State Community College will provide program management, the Wells Foundation will act as the fiduciary agent, and Community Outreach Partners will provide education, translation services and guidance to local small business owners.

“Minority- and women-owned businesses were more likely to miss their chance or be passed over for Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther. “By putting these business owners at the front of the line for local funding, we hope to support business disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, so they may continue to keep their employees and customers safe, and re-hire our residents to steady, good-paying jobs.”

Businesses may apply for one of three grants:
• $5,000 recovery grants for self-employed, single entity, sole proprietors and sole owner LLCs.
• $10,000 recovery grants for small businesses with at least one full-time employee.
• $20,000 job restoration grants for businesses with at least one full-time that lost employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses will receive an initial $10,000 recovery grant and will be eligible to receive an additional $10,000 for hiring an additional full-time employee within two month and maintaining their payroll four months after receiving initial grant funding.

“This grant does so much more than help one business at a time. These grants also help the Franklin County economy overall. Small businesses account for more than 40 percent of the national economy and they are a critical part of all local economies,” commissioner John O’Grady said.

Grants may be used to help small businesses mitigate financial hardship due to loss of sales, re-hire previously lost positions, hire new employees, train and re-train staff, adopt safer operating procedures and seek out business growth opportunities.

“We have been using the federal dollars for a very targeted approach – to help deal with the costs and losses from COVID-19, while stressing these are one-time funds only. However, assistance, even if it’s only given once can make a tremendous difference,” commissioner Kevin Boyce said.

Business owners interested in applying for a grant may go to to access and submit an application. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, with the first deadline occurring on March 18. Funding extends into September.

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