NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio — City Council is currently considering a small business relief program, which would disperse a total of $50,000 to local business owners struggling to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The council has had a big interest in providing the residents and our small businesses relief for months, but we’ve been told repeatedly by the city administration it can’t be done,” said Ward 2 Councilman Chris Glassburn, who introduced the resolution to create the small business relief program.
“We’ve watched other cities do it and do it successfully. With our city budget process, the council decided we no longer should wait.”
The legislation, which was introduced Tuesday night (Jan. 19), is expected to receive three readings before a vote is taken.
“Council wanted suspension (of the three-reading rule) on this, but I think it’s important we get the business community involved and also our economic development consultant to make sure we do this right,” Mayor Kevin Kennedy said.
“We want to make sure to vet those companies we’re giving money to and that they’re going to stay in North Olmsted,” he said.
“I’m in favor of helping struggling businesses that plan on staying here in North Olmsted, but I’m a firm believer the funds should come from federal money — (future) CARES Act funding — and not our general fund.”
City Council plans on tapping into the city’s economic development dollars, as well as general fund monies, to support the small business relief program.
Glassburn disagreed with the mayor’s opinion on where the funding should come from.
“The economic development fund is used for tax incentives or for funding and economic development consultants,” Glassburn said. “Normally, when you look at a tax credit, you think maybe this will create jobs in the future.
“If we can keep our businesses afloat for this spring into the summer, that’s a strong correlation. They’re already here. We just need them to not go out of business,” he said.
If the measure passes, a three-member small business relief program board will be responsible for awarding grants to businesses that can prove that COVID-19 interrupted, reduced or impaired operation.
Businesses with three to 50 employees would be eligible for a maximum grant of $2,500, while one- or two-employee businesses could receive a maximum grant of $1,000.
The small business relief program is limited to North Olmsted businesses opened before April 1, 2019, with fewer than 50 employees who regularly work at least 20 hours per week and annually provide an IRS Form W-2.
Businesses must rent or own retail or commercial space. Home-based businesses are not eligible.
The small business relief program is not available for financial institutions, chain businesses with more than three locations, professional services businesses, schools/daycares or medical/dental/veterinary businesses.
Gas stations — as well as alcohol, liquor, wine, vaping and tobacco businesses — are not eligible. Also, any business deemed “essential” during the pandemic can’t participate.
Glassburn said City Council has witnessed roughly at least one local business go under a week for the last several months.
“Small businesses are asking for help in any direction they can,” Glassburn said. “They don’t know where to look.
“Part of the challenge is just making sure we let every small business that’s eligible about this know about the program to help them get through this spring until enough of our community is vaccinated that we can resume our economy.”
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