416 Dinner owner Guy Fragmin says that he will have limited seating on their outside patio on Fifth Street in the Oregon District. Fragmin plans to open his patio on Friday after the Governor opened outside service for restaurants and bars in Ohio. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Dayton-area small businesses eligible for $40M in relief

A new Montgomery County program launching in June will offer up to $40 million in federal grants to help small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Though the exact start date is uncertain, the new Montgomery County Office of CARES Act will begin the application process soon for the financial assistance program for small businesses that experienced losses over the past months, according to the county.

“It’s going to be a wonderful opportunity for so many small businesses,” said Montgomery County Commission President Judy Dodge. “The main thing is to get this money to the companies as quickly as possible.”

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The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act — a $2.2 trillion relief package — was passed by Congress in March and signed by President Donald Trump.

Montgomery County received an initial allotment of $92.77 million in funds that could reach more than $200 million. The money will also be used to create programs aimed at supporting education, agriculture and health care industries, as well as to provide housing and rental assistance to individuals and families.

“We are extremely grateful for this financial support from the federal government,” Dodge said. “This funding will be critical to help our community recover from this pandemic.”

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The full shape of the programs and eligibility criteria are still being worked on and the county is still examining the myriad rules to confirm how the money can be spent, said Brianna Wooten, the county’s communications director.

“We do want to make sure that we’re very much in compliance,” she said.

The county has completed a draft budget outlining how the initial $92.77 million is anticipated to be allocated:

• Small businesses, $40 million

• Housing, $5 million

• Education, $7 million

• Agricultural, $5 million

• Public health, $5 million

• Montgomery County, $30.77 million

The county’s portion is a miscellaneous allocation that will likely be redistributed and refined to cover other expenses or needs as they arise, Wooten said. CARES Act funding can’t be used to make up the county’s loss of sales tax receipts and other revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, she said. County Commissioners have approved phased reductions this year of up to $29 million on the county’s general fund budget.

Local governments are given discretion to determine what payments are necessary to assist small businesses with the costs of business interruption caused by required closures due to the pandemic, according to the Treasury Department.

A website is being developed that will outline eligibility requirements and take applications for the small business grants, Wooten said.

While eligibility guidelines are in flux, Montgomery County has about 17,000 small businesses with 30 or fewer employees, according to Economic Modeling Specialists International’s DatabaseUSA.

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The county has also set up an email distribution list to keep businesses and individuals updated on the small business grant program as well as future relief programs from federal CARES Act funding. The lists will be used to communicate updates to program eligibility and when applications are available online. People can sign up for the email alerts at https://bit.ly/MCOhioCares.

Earlier this month, Montgomery County Commissioners created the temporary office headed by Marvene Mitchell-Cook to manage and distribute the funds within the community.

“We look forward to supporting our small business owners as we all work to recover from the pandemic and create a brighter future,” said Mitchell-Cook, director of the new office.

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Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert said the county needs to act “quickly, deliberately and strategically” because the CARES Act will expire Dec. 31.

“We have limited time to create appropriate programs and criteria for distributing these funds to our community,” Colbert said. “In addition, these funds will be subject to intense audit scrutiny, so we will be strictly adhering to the guidelines provided to us by the U.S. Treasury. We are going to ensure that these funds are allocated appropriately to where they are needed most.”

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