PORTSMOUTH — In a year where many businesses and organizations have been pushed to the brink, the City of Portsmouth announced that federal funding will be arriving soon to help them get by.
Using money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the Portsmouth City Manager’s Office devised a plan to get the funding to the most vulnerable community members. Declared during the City Manager’s meeting on Sept. 14, the $1.26 million has been divided among small businesses, local schools, rent and mortgage assistance, and towards the food insecure in the city.
“Tracy and I have been working diligently, coming up with a plan to make sure that everybody that we can take care of gets help, plus do it the right way,” said City Manager Sam Sutherland during last week’s session.
Approximately $600,000 has been set aside for small businesses through the Portsmouth Small Business Relief Program, yet that portion might change depending on how much other groups use. Until Oct. 2, businesses with less than 50 workers that have been in operation since Jan. 2019 can apply for up to $10,000 used to cover mortgage, rent, salaries, and utility expenses.
Community Development Director Tracy Shearer said seven businesses have applied for the grant so far and is hoping for at least 20 applicants.
Not all small businesses are permitted to apply for the grant, including banks, liquor, vaping, and tobacco stores, and real estate investment trusts. Shearer said the decision was made following reviews of other city government’s plans on how to use their federal funding.
“I feel like we received a fair amount of funding,” said Shearer. “I wish we would have received it earlier because I feel like small businesses needed it more back in April, but it’s better late than never.”
The Ohio Restaurant Association repeated these concerns, following its survey conducted in August found that 54% of its 107 respondents believed it would close its doors permanently by next year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and capacity/curfew limitations continue to dishearten the majority of Ohio’s restaurants. While some industry sectors such as pizza are experiencing better sales, most have experienced significant sales losses for months,” said John Barker, president and CEO of the ORA in a press release. “Consumer confidence continues to decrease as the virus remains top national news. Our data shows the undeniable need for additional government support to stabilize the industry in Ohio and nationwide.”
Ohio received nearly $4.6 billion through the CARES Act, $2 billion of which designated to local governments. For governments serving less than 500,000 residents, $1.2 billion remains; the remaining $650 million is awaiting passage of Senate Bill 357 by the Ohio House of Representatives.
SB 357 is the state’s third rollout of coronavirus relief, originally approving $350 million from House Bill 481 in June and the Ohio Controlling Board’s authorization of $175 million Aug. 24. $14 million would go to District 14, including Adams, Brown, Clermont, Scioto and parts of Lawrence counties if passed.
“COVID-19 has caused all of our communities to struggle and are in desperate need of relief,” said Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, who voted in favor of the bill. “These funds are essential to those on our front lines as we look to rebuild and recover in response to this pandemic.”
The CARES Act has been used by Portsmouth, where $30,000 went to the Greater Portsmouth Regional Airport and another $377,514 in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants toward the Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority in April.
Some businesses not eligible for the city’s program, like banks and non-profit organizations, were able to bring in money from the Paycheck Protection Program. Those that received more than $20,000 from the PPP or the Emergency Disaster Loan are not allowed to apply for the city grant.
Through the PPP loan, which stopped accepting applications on Aug. 8, many small businesses already received federal funding in amounts much larger than the maximum allotment of the current loan.
According to ProPublica’s coronavirus bailouts database, 61 Portsmouth companies obtained at least $150,000 from PPP. Loans ranging from $2 million to $5 million went to certain companies like Osco Industries and Scioto County Counseling Center, among 11 organizations awarded at least $1 million.
Businesses can find more information on the city’s relief program on the city website.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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