City of Kent Provides Covid-19 Relief Fund for Local Businesses

Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, small businesses across the United States have been relying heavily on government assistance from the local, state, and federal level. Businesses in Kent have been no exception to that. 

Federal CARES act funding as well as state and local grants have been given to multiple businesses in Kent over the previous month or two. Portage county recently provided CARES act funds to multiple businesses, and due to a program under the US Department of Housing and Urban development, which is where the CARES act money was received through, the city of Kent was eligible for additional CARES act funding. The city of Kent has used that money to create an additional, local grant that has allocated up to $50,000 for local businesses. 

The grant has a first come first serve application and provides each business with $10,000 in assistance. 

Bridget Susel

“We have issued four grants so far of $10,000 each that the businesses can use for inventory, rent, utilities, their payroll, as long as they commit to retaining the positions they have at the business,” said Bridget Susel, Community Development Director for the city of Kent. “In other words, as long as they’re able to stay open and keep some of the workers in place.” 

The four businesses that have been assisted so far are Bent Tree Coffee, Grazers, Tree City Coffee, and Little City Grille. Fortunately, for businesses that missed out on these five grants, the city of Kent is also in the process of assisting five more businesses. 

“We received additional cares act money from HUD that I am going through a formal public hearing process for,” said Susel. “With that we will be committing an additional $50,000 and will be assisting five more businesses at $10,000 a grant per business.” 

This grant has proven to be very important for businesses in Downtown Kent to stay afloat, for some it has been the only assistance they’ve received. After trying for both federal and state funding and receiving nothing, the owners of Tree City Coffee need this local grant more than ever. 

“We tried to get the federal funding and were told we could not get it because of when we bought the business,” said Tree City Coffee owner, Rebekah Meliher. “We were a little disappointed about that but we figured we’d carry on and still try to make it. Then with the state funding we tried, but again were told that because of when we bought the business that we did not qualify.” 

Rebekah Meliher

These funds required that business owners owned the business in January and February, before the pandemic. Unfortunately, Meliher and her husband took over Tree City in the beginning of May. Despite purchasing the business during the pandemic, they have experienced the same hardships as businesses that were owned prior to it with less government assistance, making the local grant that much more important. 

“We were eligible for the grant from the city of Kent,” said Meliher. “I believe there were many strings pulled to get us qualified for that. I am very thankful for that because it is literally the only help we have received as business owners.” 

Businesses have continued to apply and hope for the additional grants the city intends to provide. 

Bridget Susel
Rebekah Meliher
Rebekah Meliher

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