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Struggling arts scene, non-profits to receive millions in grants amid pandemic

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Posted at 5:39 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 19:14:23-04

AKRON, Ohio — Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro and Summit County Council have allocated $6.5 million to help non-profits and arts and cultural service providers that are struggling during the pandemic.

The money, part of the federal CARES Act funding, will be used for a grant program, a new partnership between the county and the Akron Community Foundation.

Grant awards will range from $5,000 to $50,000.

$5 million of the grant funds will be allocated to non-profit entities that help to provide for basic needs and $1.5 million will assist the local arts and cultural scene.

Non-profits will be evaluated on eligibility criteria that include a demonstrated need as a result of increased demand or decrease in support from COVID-19, community need for service, type, size and capacity of the organization, and amount of government or charitable funds already received as a result of COVID-19.

Dane Leasure, founder of Rubber City Theatre, said the theater has not had any live shows since it was forced to close in March because of the pandemic.

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Typically, up to 11 shows from six different productions are performed yearly at the Akron theater.

Typically, up to 11 shows from six different productions are performed yearly.

Leasure said the non-profit has taken a huge hit without ticket sales, which makes up about one-third of the budget.

"I would say we have lost $50,000 over the past six months," Leasure said.

If Rubber City Theatre receives a grant, Leasure said the money will help pay rent, other bills and employees. The grant could also help the group plan for future shows.

"To have government entities like Summit County that is allocating money for arts and culture is huge," he added.

Leasure hopes to resume live shows by Christmas but realizes things will look different because of social distancing guidelines that will be created in a room that seats 77 people.

"How do you bring production people back? How do you bring the actors back? And, we also have a bunch of other safety protocols," Leasure said.

Brian Thomas, the president and CEO of United Disability Services, said the non-profit agency will also apply for a grant.

"It's local funding and we're serving local people, and so every dollar counts," Thomas said.

UDS typically provides daycare and transportation services for 350 people with developmental disabilities.

However, that number has been cut down to 130 during the COVID-19 crisis in order to keep people safe with appropriate spacing measures.

As a result, the agency is seeing a dramatic drop in reimbursement for the services it provides.

"What it means is the reimbursement for services that we typically provide is down by about two-thirds, so it's a very large hole in the budget," Thomas said. "It's an existential threat for many, many organizations as it is for us."

Thomas said UDS has received some relief from loans and Medicaid but stressed the additional help offered by the county is important.

"We are here to serve people and the community and society is here and wants us to be here," he said.

Grant applications will be accepted beginning Oct. 5 through Oct. 19. You can apply for a grant here.