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Ohio 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force aims to help small businesses recover and reopen

Posted at 5:57 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 19:18:33-04

The date Ohio businesses have circled on the calendar is May 1, that’s when Governor Mike DeWine has said some businesses might start to open back up again so the Ohio 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force is trying to figure out how it can help.

During the mid-morning, socially-distanced coffee rush at Gypsy Beans and Baking company, the empty half of the cafe makes you remember that Ohio is still mostly shuttered.

Even when employees behind the counter are busy, owner Nicole Brichacek says business is clearly down.

“Well over 50 percent, which is pretty impactful,” said Brichaeck.

And that’s even with the cafe staying fairly busy while giving out free community meals every Thursday.

Still, Brichacek has furloughed most of her staff, so the May 1 target date brings anticipation and concern.

“I think it would be amazing,” said Brichacek. “I also have some friends in the medical community that feel like it is a little bit too soon.”

Businesses up and down communities like Gypsy Bean’s Detroit Shoreway community have been closed for weeks now. State Representative Diane Grendell says the Ohio 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force is trying to help.

“Many of us have been really chomping at the bit to try to get our businesses back,” said Rep. Grendell.

The first step for the Task Force is learning the scope of the economic impact from coronavirus precautions on small businesses. After that, Rep. Grendell says the group is figuring out how to remove legislative roadblocks to help businesses rebound from the COVID-19 hit.

“What they’re going to need help with,” said Rep. Grendell. “That’s something I do not know the answer to. Only each business can let me now what that is.”

She says a lot of options are on the table, like more small business loans or grants to help make ends meet.

Brichacek says she’s applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Across the nation, 1,661,367 similar loans were approved, sending out $342 billion as a result of the coronavirus. Just in Ohio, 59,800 loans have send out over $14 billion.

See the full data set here.

Brichacek isn’t sure if she’s one of those loans because she still hasn’t heard if she’s been approved. She isn’t optimistic since the SBA recently announced that “The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding,” according to its website.

“They’ve promised all this money is going to be available and it just hasn’t been an easy process or readily available process,” said Brichacek.

She says the restrictions determining who gets loans and grants are often limiting, ruling out many small businesses.

“You have to have this perfect, cookie-cutter scenario and there are no small businesses that are ever cookie-cutter,” said Brichacek.

Once the Task Force collects feedback from business owners like Brichacek, Rep. Grendell says they’ll work with other lawmakers and Governor DeWine to figure out how to help.

Ohio Democrats criticized the Task Force for the lack of diversity in business owners who had a chance to speak with the task force already.

“We were under the impression by the Majority that this task-force would be a bipartisan, collaborative effort to map out next steps for the General Assembly’s response to the COVID-19 crisis in Ohio,” said Rep. Terrence Upchurch in a Minority Caucus Blog post. “However, it became almost immediately apparent from the agenda and the chosen speakers that this task force was actually designed to gather one-sided testimony that only supported the idea of opening Ohio as soon as possible. This was never a democratic process."