LAKEWOOD, Ohio — Renters and small business owners in Lakewood are getting some help with paying their bills. The city just announced two rent relief grant programs, providing emergency assistance to those who need it most.
The city is using $1.5 million from its federal CARES Act funds to help low to moderate income tenants who can’t pay their rent due to pandemic-related economic hardships for its Residential Rent Assistance Program.
The program provides rental assistance, retroactive to April 1, 2020, to renters who meet income guidelines from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They can receive up to six months of rent payments paid directly to their landlord.
“People are hurting, they're hurting very badly and with the delays at the federal level, and the fact that people aren't receiving that additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits, people are struggling to pay their mortgages and their rent so this program is going to help people stay in their homes,” Lakewood Mayor Meghan George said.
The program is being administered in conjunction with Cuyahoga County by CHN Housing Partners and Lakewood Community Services Center (LCSC).
The city has also launched a second round of its Small Business Rent Relief Program.
“Lakewood is known for its small businesses, they line our commercial corridors. And so it was really important to get funds direct to these small businesses to help them through the most trying times they're ever going to experience while they were open,” George said.
The city first launched the program when the pandemic started and gave out $187,492.92 in grants from its federal CARES Act funds to 118 small businesses. Now, it has announced a second round and has pledged $445,870 to even more small businesses that have experienced a reduction in revenue as a result of the pandemic. Each business can receive up to $7,000 to cover rent and eligible payroll expenses.
“This is a little bit different than the phase one small business program. Eligible businesses must employ less than five employees and meet the other federal guidelines,” George said.
The criteria include:
- Be physically located in the City of Lakewood
- Be in good standing with the City of Lakewood (i.e. no tax delinquencies)
- Have been established prior to January 1, 2020
- Employ five or fewer employees, including the business owner (combined hours cannot exceed 200 per week)
- Rent a retail or commercial space and may not own or have an ownership interest in the building (home based businesses are not eligible)
- The business owner must meet HUD income eligibility criteria
“So the first round, those that were eligible were less than 50 employees, and they had to have a storefront. So with this round, they don't have to have a physical storefront. I was very proud that we got that program rolled out so quickly, but we realize we were missing some pockets of small businesses that need to help as well so we've removed that requirement that they have to have a storefront,” George said.
Dance Lakewood on Westwood Avenue applied for a grant in the first round and received the $7,000 maximum. The studio was closed from mid-March to mid-July. Co-Director Stephanie Howard says the money helped keep them afloat while they weren’t able to open.
“We came back with about 15% of our client base, just a really small session to sort of dip our toe in the water of COVID protocols and safety and dancing in masks and just sort of getting back into things with the way the world is now,” Howard said. “We've finished that and it went really well. We learned a lot.”
Now, in just a few weeks, students will be twirling back into the studio with some changes.
“Typically, we would have anywhere from 12 to 14 kids in a class and so we've cut that back to seven. We have these grids out on the floor so that we can be sure everybody's in every other grid, and so everybody's staying six feet apart at all times,” Howard said.
Howard said they plan to operate at 50% capacity when they open for a full session in the fall.
“No one's business model is built to operate on 50% capacity. So it was a big awakening for us to sort of realize what we were going to have to do and how we need to make that work for a full year,” Howard said.
So Howard and her team applied for the second round of rent relief grants. She’s hoping it will help support them as they continue to operate in a limited capacity.
“It just eases that burden of knowing that this is gonna be a tough year, and you know we might not turn a profit this year but we hope that the world will go back to normal. And that support of the community to just help us make it through this time has been really crucial,” Howard said.
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