SIDNEY – The Shelby County commissioners plan to offer $100,000 in grants to small businesses in the county that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commissioners met Tuesday morning with Shelby County Treasurer John Coffield, Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership Executive Director Jim Hill and Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Raible to organize the Shelby County Small Business Relief Program. They plan to open the grant application process within the next two weeks.
The Small Business Relief Program will be funded with money the county received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act – a $2 trillion economic stimulus bill that Congress passed in March.
The commissioners said they want to make funds available to small businesses to help keep them in operation, which in turn will produce sales tax and income tax revenue for the county. They also want to ensure the money benefits people in Shelby County rather than being returned to the state government.
“Because we can, one,” Commissioner Tony Bornhorst said about why he wants to create the Small Business Relief Program, “but the second part is if we do not use up our allotment, it goes back to Columbus. So if we can help our companies to weather the storm and they stay viable for the future, it helps us all in the long run.”
Plans are being finalized for how Shelby County will operate the Small Business Relief Program, which is being modeled after a program Hamilton County created. Champaign, Montgomery and Ashtabula counties also have established similar grant programs.
According to initial plans, which are subject to change, grants up to $5,000 will be available for for-profit entities in Shelby County that have been in operation since at least January 2019. Eligible businesses must have 50 or fewer employees as of March 22, 2020, must have less than $1 million in gross revenue on an annual basis and must have experienced a decrease in gross revenue of 35 percent or more compared to March 1-April 30, 2019, revenue due to COVID-19.
The grants will help cover eligible expenses such as mortgage costs, rent or lease costs, utility expenses, wages and compensation, materials and supplies, and personal protective equipment.
If more than $100,000 in grant funding is requested by Shelby County businesses, a lottery system would be utilized to select grant recipients. Hamilton County had to utilize a lottery system, Bornhorst said, and he anticipates Shelby County will have to, as well.
Shelby County government entities – the county government, city of Sidney, villages and townships – have been allotted more than $1.7 million in CARES Act funds. The Small Business Relief Program will be funded by a portion of the more than $850,000 the county government received.
Money distributed through the CARES Act must be spent on COVID-19 related expenses. It’s likely some government entities will have to return some of their funds.
“If (the CARES Act) changes to allow us for lost revenue, we’ll have no problem using it all,” Commissioner Julie Ehemann said. “But if it stays the way it is, there’s townships and villages that will never use all their allotment.”
Small Business Relief Program guidelines and grant applications will be posted on the Shelby County website, https://co.shelby.oh.us/, and will be distributed by entities including the Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce when plans are finalized.