COLUMBUS, Ohio — Governor Mike DeWine signed an executive order Wednesday, asking lenders and landlords to suspend payments owed by Ohio's small businesses for 90 days.
"We know that many of them are hurting. We know that they've had to make some very, very tough choices," DeWine said. "We also know that our small business owners are resilient. They are no strangers to hard work and to sacrifice."
Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted explained how a number of economic problems can cascade from someone being unable to pay rent on his or her apartment unit.
"If somebody cannot pay their rent and we're not evicting them because they can't pay their rent, well, that means that the person who owns that apartment complex, who also has a commercial mortgage, that they aren't receiving the money that they need to pay back their lender," Husted said. "And if we don't solve this chain, then the person at the bottom also gets hurt, because the person who owns that particular facility will be foreclosed upon and then unable to provide services down the line."
Businesses fight to survive
Eight weeks ago, Nike Olabisi-Green opened her dance and fitness business, Nola Movement, inside the UNBar Cafe in Larchmere.
"Nola Movement is really about creating a space for the community to come and fuel their fire through physical movement, positive mindset practices and community connection," Olabisi-Green said.
But, like many other business owners, she had to shut down her business within the last couple of weeks.
"It was a tough blow," Olabisi-Green said. "It was definitely a gut punch."
She added, "We were just starting to build that relationship in the community, we were just starting to get momentum. We were just starting to really bring on members and have that come together, and now it’s stopped."
While she's able to cover April's payment to the cafe owner from whom she rents space, Olabisi-Green isn't sure what happens after that, as she pivots to offering classes online and continues to pay her instructors and her expenses, while trying to honor the memberships that have already been purchased and attract new members.
In the meantime, she's applying for loans from the Small Business Administration and trying to figure out how to move forward.
"It’s all coming down so quickly, and I want to make sure that, where I am eligible and able to apply for different funding and resources, that I’m doing that," Olabisi-Green said.
Knowing she may have relief coming to support her as she steers her new business through this time is huge.
"It’s a really big deal and I’m super grateful," Olabisi-Green said.
When it comes to her finances, Olabisi-Green is keeping a positive mindset.
"You have to stay positive about this stuff, and I’m looking at this as a new opportunity for me," Olabisi-Green said. "I was focusing on my community, now I have the opportunity to focus on a global community, right? Cause there’s so many of us now that are at home, so just really keeping my mind positive and trusting that it’s gonna work out."
She said she hoped relief for small businesses would hit "Main Street small businesses" like hers that have just one location and a few employees, especially because she believes businesses focusing on physical and mental wellness will be needed when this pandemic is over.
"Even if you are not feeling the financial impact of this, even if you haven’t been laid off or you haven’t lost your job, having the anxiety and the stress of living through this situation is a really big deal," Olabisi-Green said.
East Cleveland asks for help
News of DeWine's order was welcome in East Cleveland, where community activist Justyn Anderson said businesses are struggling, since people without work cannot afford to frequent them.
"I’m not a financial expert on the economy, but I know that it will take some millions of dollars to help our economy here in East Cleveland," Anderson said. "I know our state has that money in the rainy day fund, and it is storming here in East Cleveland, so I’m sure we qualify."
East Cleveland Councilwoman Juanita Gowdy is pushing for some relief for residents of the city who have been laid off.
"It's [an] emergency for our residents that's having a hard time right now, and East Cleveland is a poor city," Gowdy said. "I’m just looking for them to get the support and the help that they really need."
She's pushing to stop evictions for 60 days and to suspend rent payments.
"I really want to see people safe, conscious and I really want them to know that the struggles that [they're] going through, it’s just only temporary," Gowdy said. "I really want the landlords to know that they shouldn’t have to pay rent."
Councilwoman Gowdy is helping to get free meals to those who need them. Call (216) 894-1177 to have food delivered, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.