City Providing $5.5 Million in Loans & Grants to Small Businesses

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on June 8 with additional details and qualifications for the loan and grant programs.

The Columbus COVID-19 Small Business Response and Recovery Fund will provide $5.5 million in loans and grants to small businesses across the city.

The City of Columbus announced the program Thursday, May 28. The funding comes from the $157 million the city received from the federal CARES Act. Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin estimates the fund will help more than 500 small businesses in Columbus.

The funding will be split into three buckets – Recovery Grants, Return Safely Grants for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and Pivot Loans.

Recovery Grants

$3.5 million is allotted for Recovery Grants. Businesses with 25 employees or fewer operating within low- to moderate-income neighborhoods will be eligible for grants of up to $10,000 to help maintain existing business operations and retain jobs.

Businesses can view the map below or verify their business is in a low- to moderate-income area here. Additionally, businesses must show that their sales have been reduced by 25% or more by COVID-19 since March 17, 2020. The total grant amount will be determined by review of the business’ application.

Grants may be used for payroll, operating expenses, lease or rent payments and inventory acquisition vital to the business. Funds cannot be used for capital improvements or personal expenses.

If funded, businesses must participate in a mandatory Technical Assistance program and provide a one-page annual status report.

Return Safely Grants for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

$1 million is allotted for Return Safely Grants for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Open to all businesses with 25 employees or fewer in the City of Columbus municipal boundaries, these $5,000 grants with a one-to-one match will help existing small businesses secure PPE or make necessary changes to re-open their operations safely under new state guidelines. With the grant money, businesses can be reimbursed for PPE purchases previously made dating back March 17.

The grant must be used to secure PPE and/or make necessary COVID-19 health/safety improvements required to reopen their businesses safely. Eligible uses include PPE supplies for employees and customers and workspace changes to comply with health and safety requirements. This may include staff costs, so long as businesses can demonstrate extra staff was necessary to serve expanded physical space to comply with distancing guidelines.

If funded, businesses must provide a one-page annual status report.

Pivot Loans

$1 million is allotted for Pivot Loans. These loans of up to $20,000 will provide small businesses with 25 employees or fewer in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods with access to capital to help maintain business operations or create new jobs or make capital investments due to unexpected market growth.

Businesses can view the map below or verify their business is in a low- to moderate-income area here. Loans will have a low interest rate capped at 1%. The loan amount will be determined by the application with a maximum loan amount of 50% of the total business/project expansion/ opportunity cost up to $20,000 (whichever is less).

Qualifying uses for the loan money include new markets for existing products or new services, or products lines that the business can expand into with the goal of maintaining existing business operations, while retaining existing jobs, creating new jobs or making capital investments due to unexpected market growth.

If funded, businesses must participate in a mandatory Technical Assistance program and provide a one-page annual status report.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther emphasized that the funds are for small businesses with fewer than 25 employees, which account for 80% of Columbus’ businesses. The program also targets the city’s opportunity neighborhoods as a means to address the inaccessibility of some larger federal programs.

“While federal programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans helped some, the rules and the guidelines did not work for many,” says Hardin. “This is why it is important to have local programs tailored to meet our local needs.”

Businesses can apply for more than one program and are eligible even if they have received PPP loans or other federal aid. Sole proprietors are also eligible.

On June 1, City Council will enact legislation to move funds to Rev1 Ventures which will administer the grants, and ECDI which will administer the loan program.

Applications will be made available online to small businesses beginning on June 9 at 5p.m. Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis with businesses receiving funding quickly after they are approved. Applications are open through July 17 at 5 p.m. or until the funds run out.

The City hopes to have the first funds dispersed by June 30. After that date, applications will be funded every two weeks, with the final disbursement two weeks after the end of the program period.

JP Morgan Chase is also providing $250,000 to assist with the streamlined application process and technical support for the partner organizations.

“Our small businesses have suffered greatly during our fight to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Mayor Ginther. β€œIt is essential that small businesses are part of our economic recovery, and these grants and loans will help them stabilize and grow.”

Information on how to apply will be available on June 8 at columbus.gov/development/Economic-Development/Small-Business. View more information on requirements, needed documentation and FAQ here.

For more information, contact the Office of Small Business and Entrepreneur Development of the City of Columbus at 614-645-8616.