LORAIN, Ohio — Mary Szefcyk has owned Broadway Mary's in Lorain for the past three years, guiding the restaurant through the pandemic, but now she's wondering when crucial federal help will finally be approved by city council.
Szefcyk told News 5 her application for $30,000 in American Rescue Plan funds has been held in limbo since early December, as three Lorain city council members continue to put the fund through additional readings with little explanation.
“It’s been stressful, disheartening, it’s left me with a lot of questions, like what am I doing wrong," Szefcyk said. “And to get told it’s not going to happen this week and postponed; I’m wondering is it ever going to happen are we ever going to get the help.”
Szefcyk said while waiting for the crucial dollars she ran short on money and was forced to temporarily close on Jan. 24, and was only able to reopen on Jan. 26, after a large group of customers put together a GoFundMe page and raised more $3,200.
“I can’t even explain the words, I feel so appreciated," Szefcyk said. “We love this community, we’ve done local coat drives; we take care of the homeless. We have a line out front where we hang hats, warm essentials for anyone to grab."
Ward 2 Lorain Councilman Victoria Kempton told News 5 she too is confused as to why some of her council colleges have been slow in approving the ARPA funding application submitted by Broadway Mary's restaurant, especially since Kempton said more than 150 other Lorain businesses received ARPA funding approval on first reading.
“Some members of council are kicking a small businesswoman in the teeth, and for what reason I don’t know," Kempton said. “There is nothing concrete that they can point to that would make me feel like this should not have been taken care of already. I can’t come up with any other explanation other than it’s a personality issue or politics that are playing into this.”
Ward 8 Lorain Councilman Joshua Thornsberry quickly responded to News 5 about the delays in ARPA funding approval for Broadway Mary's that he and fellow council members Beth Henley and Tony Dimacchia have been imposing>
Thornsberry said his office received calls from residents who had concerns about issuing the restaurant federal fund, but said for legal reasons he couldn't get specific.
“We want to make sure these funds are being used to support business that match the plans and values of the city," Thornsberry said. "With some applicants we made approvals too quickly, we don’t want to make the same mistakes that we made before, so I think we’re being extra cautious.”
“This is only applicant that we’ve had that I know of that applied for funding for one purpose and then sent an email to city council listing a completely different purpose for the funds," Thornsberry added. “We wanted to give people from the community, both those in favor of the funding, and those against the funding the opportunity to reach out to myself and other members of council.”
“For fear of litigation I can’t get into all of the details, or some of the details of why I have some concerns about this applicant.”
The ARPA application for Broadway Mary's is set for a final third reading and vote before Lorain city council on Feb. 6.
Both Szefcyk and Kempton hope there will be enough votes to finally approve the funding application they believe meets all federal guidelines.
"We’re trying to grow this community, we’re trying to support small businesses, so politics and personalities aside we have to do our jobs as legislators," Kempton said. “There is no place for that in federal money, there’s no place for that in what we’re doing, we’re trying to grow this community.”