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Business & Economy

Columbus, Franklin County offering $8 million for small business relief

A 'We're Open' sign on a business door.
Kaique Rocha

The City of Columbus and Franklin County are combining resources to create an $8 million grant program for small businesses.

The joint venture will provide grants of $5,000 to $20,000 to eligible businesses and will prioritize applications from business in underserved communities and “historically overlooked” businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans.

Franklin County administrator Ken Wilson said these applications are being prioritized because minority-owned businesses have been historically sidelined. He said minority-owned businesses received just 3 percent of paycheck protection funds issued by the federal government as pandemic relief.

He expressed hope that this program will mark a shift from surviving to thriving.

“We all have endured difficulties over the last two years. We’ve seen loved ones lose jobs, struggle financially, and we’ve watched business struggle while seeing others close. However, we believe today marks the day when small business can begin to heal and experience growth once again,” Wilson said.

City council President Shannon Hardin said help for small businesses is necessary to mitigate the long-term effects of the pandemic on the local economy.

“Even though we are transitioning to the next stage of this pandemic, to endemic, we know that the issues associated with them have long lasting effects,” Hardin said.

Mayor Andrew Ginther said these grants could help employ neighbors with living-wage jobs and grow the economy.

Wilson said small businesses are important to the local economy.

“It goes to show small businesses are not just simply mom and pop operations as they are sometimes called. They are the backbone of our community and the U.S. economy,” Wilson said.

The help comes at a time when the economy is showing signs of improvement, and so the program will further shore up that progress.

“Financial indicators show that economy is improving. Not only do we want to see this trend continue, but we want to ensure that businesses of all sizes survive the pandemic to compete in a thriving economy once again here in Franklin County and the city of Columbus,” Wilson said.

Business owners interested in applying for a grant can visit www.smallbusinessrecoverygrant.com to submit an application.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis through September. The first deadline is March 18.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.