OHIO/PUTNAM COUNTY — Throughout the nation, businesses in general are suffering as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses in particular are especially hard hit. Addressing these issues, the State of Ohio — utilizing federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding — has developed a new program designed to aid Ohio’s small businesses.

Administered under the umbrella of the Ohio Development Services Agency, the Small Business Relief Grant program — announced last Friday evening by Governor Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted — makes available a total of $125 million, with $500,000 set aside for each of Ohio’s 88 counties. The remaining $81 million is then available to all Ohio small businesses, regardless of their location.

“There are two different programs,” Amy Sealts, director of the Putnam County Community Improvement Corporation, said. “One is specifically for restaurants and bars, and one is for small businesses with less than 25 employees. The Putnam County Commissioners just offered a great small business grant relief program where businesses could get reimbursed for PPE and sanitation or supplies related to the Restart Ohio policy, but a lot of businesses stated in their applications they had needs other than PPE supplies. This grant can be used for some of those other needs.”

Each qualifying small business — defined as any business employing from 1 to 25 individuals — is eligible to receive $10,000 in SBRG funding. Additionally, the State of Ohio has created a $37.5 million fund to help restaurants and bars that have been hurt by the pandemic. The Bar and Restaurant Assistance fund will provide $2,500 grants to eligible liquor permit holders.

SBRG funds can be used to reimburse eligible businesses for the following COVID-related expenses incurred between

March 22, 2020 and the date the application was submitted relating to their Ohio business location(s) as long as the costs do not violate State or Federal law, and are not otherwise specified as “ineligible costs”:

• Personal protective equipment to protect employees, customers, or clients from COVID-19.

• Measures taken to protect employees, customers, or clients from COVID-19.

• Mortgage or rent payments for business premises (personal residences explicitly excluded).

• Utility payments (excludes utilities for personal residences and cellular phones not used primarily for business purposes).

• Salaries, wages, or compensation paid to contractors or employees, including an employer’s share of health insurance costs.

• Business supplies or equipment.

There is, however, one small catch. The grant funds are available on a first come-first served basis, and the window of opportunity is potentially slim.

“It’s a really short turn-around,” Sealts said. “The application period actually opens on Nov. 2. But there are some things people have to do before that in order to apply.”

Up front, prospective applicants must first review the criteria for eligible and ineligible businesses, then create a registration ID with the state.

All eligibility criteria and applications for both grant programs is available at https://businesshelp.ohio.gov/

To create an OhioID, businesses should go to https://ohid.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/ohid

“If Putnam County businesses do not deplete the county’s entire $500,000 allocation within 21 days after the application period opens, its remaining funds will become available to businesses statewide,” said Amy Sealts, Putnam County CIC. “We encourage small businesses to review the grant application ahead of time to understand requirements and be prepared to apply on Nov. 2.”