CARES Act Funding to support small businesses during pandemic

On Oct. 23, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor John Husted announced a funding package meant to help organizations across Ohio that have been struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CARES Act funding will total $419.5 million and is divided amongst several different agencies across Ohio; this includes $50 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to 47 different Community Action Agencies meant to provide rent, mortgage, and water assistance to Ohioans dating back to Apr. 1, 2020.

John Barker, President of the Ohio Restaurant Association, in a Nov. 9 Zoom conference

$37.5 million will be allocated to the Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund, which will help restaurants and bars who have struggled to stay in business due to lockdowns related to the COVID-19.

John Barker, President of the Ohio Restaurant Association, said the Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund would be available to businesses who have a liquor license. Barker said the amount of money allocated was around $2500 per company, applying to 15,000 bars and restaurants in the state.

“That one they felt they set aside the exact amount of money to match up with the number of liquor licenses in the state,” Barker said.

ORA President John Barker said the organization has been in frequent communication with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
Tom Wilke, Economic Development Director, in a Nov. 9 Zoom conference

In addition, $125 million is being allocated to small businesses to help pay for various expenses. These include wage compensation to employees as well as business equipment. Designated as the Small Business Relief Program, applicants were able to sign up beginning Nov. 2.

City of Kent Economic Development Director Tom Wilke commended the state for keeping the application process relatively simple.

“To give the state a lot of credit, they kept it very simple,” said Wilke. “You’re limited to businesses with 25 employees or less, and they made the documentation that was required very simple.”

Tom Wilke said the Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund differed from the Small Business Relief program in that the amount of allocated of money was equal to businesses with liquor licenses in the state.

The documents required for the application were a bill paid in the previous 60 days, the business’s 2019 income tax return, and a payroll report showing 25 employees or less.

“Between those three documents and providing some information online, once they got the system going, it only took about 15 to 20 minutes to complete an application,” said Wilke. “Again, I give the state a lot of credit, even though they did have some technical glitches on Monday [Nov. 2.]”

The grants award on a first-come, first-serve basis meaning these technical glitches may have created problems for businesses trying to apply as early as possible. However, Wilke stated that he doesn’t believe this should affect most businesses’ opportunities to receive the grant.

“The ones that were lucky enough to get in on Monday obviously will have the greatest chance of receiving the grant, but my guess is if you got in by Wednesday, you’re probably in pretty good shape,” said Wilke.

Businesses with 25 or fewer employees that also have a liquor license were eligible for both the Small Business Relief Program grant and the Bar and Restaurant grant.

Small businesses all across Ohio rushed to apply for the $10,000 funding on Nov. 2. In Kent, Eight businesses applied to receive this grant money. Those businesses include; Grazers, Little City Grille, Bent Tree Coffee, Tree City Coffee, Venice Cafe, Water Street Tavern, and Scribbles Cafe. One company, the Continental Grill, applied for the money but has recently closed down.

Local businesses must use this money for regular business expenses like payroll, rent and utilities, business supplies, and COVID protection products like dividers and masks. For some business owners, some are more important than others.

Stacey Lasher, Grazers co-founder (Photo: Grazers)

“Employee’s salary has been the most important thing for us, trying to help people keep receiving their pay. Everybody’s got it hard right now, so that’s our biggest focus is retaining our employees,” said Carl Bauer, co-founder and business partner of Grazers.

Despite applying for the latest grant to help small businesses and restaurants, founders and business partners Stacey Lasher and Carl Bauer have applied for other grants to help employee payroll.

“When we got the Paycheck Protection Program money, we were able to take that money and pay our staff even though they weren’t working, and that helped us feel better because we’re a family. We’re a mom and pop shop, we live in Kent, and we care about the people who live here, like our customers and our staff,” said Stacey Lasher.

Grazers co-owner Stacey Lasher said any money they recieve would go towards the employees and keeping the business open.

Without knowing how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, business owners are hopeful the state will create more grant funding to keep its businesses open.

Carl Bauer, co-founder and business partner with Grazers (Photo: Grazers)

“I want the state to ask more detailed questions like how much does it cost you to run your business If you have absolutely no customers? I would like to have grant funding that would give businesses money based on that so they can stay open through this because so many people are going to close because they can’t afford the day to day expenses,” Lasher said.

Barring another possible shutdown of bars, restaurants, and fitness centers in the state of Ohio, as mentioned in Governors Dewine’s press conference on Nov. 11 could happen if COVID cases continue to rise. Restaurant owners are hopeful that if another shutdown occurs, the state will help the business industry even more.

“If we close down the restaurants and bars, then we have to make sure that the people that work in that industry are going to be receiving the aid that they need,” Bauer said.

“They need to plan that next step ahead,” Carl Bauer, Grazers co-owner, on maintaining business after a potential shutdown

Ohio colleges and universities expect to receive $100 million for a variety of COVID-19-related needs, including testing and mental health programs.

The Bar and Restaurant Assistance grant, which provides businesses that serve liquor with an additional $2,500, is even easier to apply for. All that is required is a liquor permit number and a few other pieces of information. There is no documentation required.


Nick – John Barker interview (Audio, Image, ORA info), Infographic

Aidan – Tom Wilke interview (Audio, Image, Main Street info)

Richard – Stacey Lasher interview, Carl Bauer interview (Audio, image, Grazers info)