In light of the federal government’s epic failure to approve a stimulus package, Ohioans and Northeast Ohio businesses should be celebrating the approval on Oct. 26 by Ohio's Controlling Board of $420 million in aid for families, businesses and more who have been impacted by COVID-19. The package is funded by federal CARES Act aid.

The help can’t come soon enough. According to a study by Cleveland State University researchers, COVID repercussions have hit Northeast Ohio’s economy harder than most large metro areas across the country. Only three of the nation’s 40 largest metro areas — New York, Las Vegas and Boston — have done worse in terms of job losses than Cleveland’s 12% decline from July 2019 to July 2020.

Ohio’s aid package was put together by Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, and the General Assembly. According to a news release from the governor’s office, the $419.5 million package includes funding for small businesses, restaurants and bars, hospitals, higher education, arts, nonprofits and low-income Ohioans impacted financially by the pandemic. It includes $125 million in grants to small businesses with no more than 25 employees. The grant funding will help businesses pay for mortgage or rent payments; utility payments; salaries, wages or compensation for employees and contractors; business supplies or equipment; and other costs.

Are you a small business owner reading this? We urge you to take advantage of this program. The application for the Small Business Relief Program is available at businesshelp.ohio.gov. The administration also is allocating $50 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to 47 Community Action Agencies to provide rent, mortgage and water and/or sewer assistance to Ohioans in need. This assistance will help Ohioans pay outstanding balances back to April 1, 2020.

While it would have been better paired with a federal stimulus program, this is real help for Ohioans. Ohio households behind on their bills with an annual income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines will be eligible for assistance. For a family of four, that is an annual income up to $52,400. Ohioans can apply for assistance through their local Community Action Agency. A list of agencies can be found at businesshelp.ohio.gov.

The administration is also designating $37.5 million in CARES Act funding for the Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund. This fund will be available for Ohio restaurants and bars struggling financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and limited in the full use of their liquor permit. Businesses with an on-premise consumption permit will be eligible to receive $2,500 per unique business location. Businesses needed to have an active on-premise permit as of close of business Oct. 23. Permit holders can apply at businesshelp.ohio.gov.

Our schools are struggling. Emotions are high. This program includes $100 million in CARES Act funding for higher education for COVID-related services provided at universities and colleges, including expanded testing for students, faculty and staff, and mental health services.

Last but certainly not least, $25 million CARES Act funding is designated for nonprofits, and $20 million to support Ohio’s world-class arts organizations. These funds will be used for costs incurred throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are grateful that, to date, more than $2.1 billion in coronavirus relief has been distributed to local governments, child care, PPE, broadband access and other critical areas in need of financial assistance.

We are not out of this crisis. It will get worse with winter and the expected surge. Hopefully, this program spearheaded by DeWine will help.

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