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$5 million in grants helping small Summit County companies, artists and single employee businesses

April Couch.jpg
Posted at 3:44 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 19:32:39-04

AKRON, Ohio — Summit County is adding $5 million to expand a grant program aimed at helping small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second round of funding comes from a portion of the county's federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) allocation.

Guidelines have been expanded to include businesses with 2 to 30 employees for $5,000 grants. Additionally, sole proprietor/single employee businesses will now be eligible for $2,000 grants, which can be used for revenue replacement.

"A lot of those were gig workers, artists and entrepreneurs whose contracts have come to an end or been disrupted by COVID-19," said Steve Millard, president of the Greater Akron Chamber.

Last month, the chamber distributed the initial round of funding, about $1.5 million to 311 small businesses. Hundreds of other businesses were eligible, but the money ran out.

With the program boosted, $2.4 million will be used to fund existing applicants, approximately $1.6 million will fund $5,000 grants to new applicants, and another $1 million will fund $2,000 grant to new applicants.

Millard estimated the money has the potential to save thousands of jobs.

"We think that there are 2,500 employees in these small businesses that we plan on funding that were affected by COVID-19. By helping those businesses survive, we hope to help those jobs survive," he said.

April Couch, who owns Totally Tangled Creations in the Summit Artspace building, was frustrated last month when she learned she wasn't initially eligible for a grant.

She wrote a letter to the chamber indicating she felt left out of another economic relief program.

"I have legitimate tax returns with profit and loss statements to support my business, yet I'm still not considered worth of consideration," Couch wrote.

Couch, 53, said she stands to lose at least $20,000 because multiple summer and fall art shows have already been canceled.

"I have lost 90 percent of my income," Couch told News 5.

Couch was relieved to hear the grant program has been expanded for artists like herself. She has submitted her application and has plans for the money if she is selected.

"For me, it will help me pay the rent for my space, help pay for insurance," she said.

Applications for the second round of grants will be accepted until 9 a.m. on May 22.

Eligibility requirements for the grant program can be found here.

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Reopening Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio have established a plan to begin reopening Ohio businesses starting May 1. Below is a timeline of the businesses allowed to reopen.

May 1: Medical care – non-essential surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay will be allowed beginning May 1.
May 4: Manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses that were ordered to cease activities may reopen on May 4, as well as general office environments.
May 12: Retail establishments and facilities will be allowed to reopen on May 12.
May 15: Salons, barbershops, day spas, tanning facilities, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and piercing businesses. Restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons on outdoor patios. More details here.
May 21: Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service. Read more here. Campgrounds will be allowed to reopen. Read more here.
May 22: Horse racing will be allowed to resume, with no spectators. Casinos and Racinos are not included in the reopening. Read more here.
May 26: Gyms, fitness centers, regulated pools, recreation centers and studios will be allowed to reopen, with new requirements. Non-contact and limited-contact sports leagues, such as golf, baseball and tennis will be allowed to resume. BMVs across Ohio will reopen, but government officials encourage citizens to utilize the BMVs online services when possible. Read more here.
May 31: Day care centers will be able to reopen in Ohio. Read more about the plan to reopen day cares here. Day camps and summer camps will also be allowed to operate. Details on that here.

While these announced reopenings encompass the majority of the businesses, agencies and events closed and canceled by the state's orders, the governor has not yet made an annoucements on when K-12 schools in the state will reopen, nor when places of public amusement, such as theme parks, gambling businesses, skating rinks, movie theaters, and others will be allowed to reopen. See a full list of indoor and outdoor places that remain closed here.

Click here for more details on the state's "Responsible RestartOhio" plan.