AKRON – Ohio’s treasurer wants the state to set aside $100 million in federal pandemic relief funds to provide grants to struggling small businesses hurt by the coronavirus.
The program needs to go through the General Assembly first, get approval by the DeWine administration and then be administered.
And the clock is ticking: The money, which would come from federal aid already given to the state, must be allocated and spent by Dec. 31.
Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague came to Akron on Thursday to talk about the proposal. The Ohio Business Roundtable, Ohio Restaurant Association, Ohio Chamber of Commerce and others support its creation, he said.
Small businesses across Ohio have been impacted the most by the pandemic, Sprague said.
“As we’ve seen throughout the country, and here in Akron and throughout the state of Ohio, small businesses have been tremendously adversely impacted, whether you are talking about retail, restaurants, salons, the list goes on and on,” he said.
And though the small businesses need support from state government, the state also needs the small businesses to help lead the way out of the pandemic, Sprague said.
“Today we are calling upon the General Assembly, out of the $4.5 billion CARES Act allocation the state of Ohio has received, … to set aside $100 million for a statewide small business grant program to reimburse and help support these small businesses with their coronavirus-related expenses,” he said.
The statewide program would provide grants of up to $50,000 for businesses that have one to 499 employees, he said. Sole proprietorships should be eligible, he said.
More specific details and rules need to be worked out by the General Assembly, including how the grant program would be administered and when people can begin applying for the money, Sprague said.
The Ohio treasurer’s office would be the fiscal agent for the program, he said.
General Assembly leadership is interested in the concept, he said.
“We’ve also talked with the small businesses,” Sprague said.
Nationally, one in six restaurants is in danger of going out of business, he said. And some 78% of Ohio small businesses are now seeing significant revenue losses because of the pandemic.
The grant program could be in operation in several weeks if the General Assembly and Gov. Mike DeWine are open to it, Sprague said.
“It needs to happen quickly. The deadline is Dec. 31,” Sprague said. “Money has to be allocated and spent. We think this is a real ability to get money into small business.”
If the program is created, it could serve as a blueprint for local governments to create similar grant programs, Sprague said.