Hundreds of Butler County small businesses awarded grants from CARES Act-funded program

The Butler County commissioners have reissued almost $195,000 in small business CARES relief funds to four communities that could not use their entire allotment before the deadline last year.

The county received $18.7 million in federal coronavirus relief funds last year, and the commissioners carved $1.5 million out for small business relief. They gave subgrant awards to nine of the largest cities and urban townships based on population. The money had to be awarded to businesses by Dec. 30 under the old CARES Act funding rules, a deadline that has since been extended.

County Administrator Judi Boyko told the commissioners recently almost 350 small businesses received $1.3 million to help them weather the COVID-19 storm.

“The program limited assistance to $10,000 per business and the average grant was around $7,300,” Boyko said. “Nearly 1,600 employees were supported through this program the commissioners sponsored.”

With the CARES deadline relaxed the commissioners agreed to reissue the remainder of the money four communities didn’t spend to Middletown ($248), Monroe, ($40,988) , Fairfield Twp. ($48,976) and West Chester Twp. ($104,512).

West Chester Twp. received the largest total award of all the jurisdictions at $287,583, and Assistant Township Administrator Lisa Brown said the township is hoping to spend the whole amount this time. She said there were some businesses that might have been eligible last time but didn’t submit all the required information.

“We will do what we can to help as many small businesses as possible,” Brown said. “There’s always the chance if you start a whole new campaign that you’ll meet a fresh audience, or other people who didn’t want to apply the first time but maybe need it a little bit more this time.”

ExploreButler County small businesses getting millions from local governments in huge program response

All but one of the 20 businesses that received help got the full $10,000 allocation.

Lan Evans, who owns L’Amour, said her business has been down about 35% due to the pandemic. She said the $10,000 boost was welcome especially because she needed to take measures to keep her staff and clients protected from the virus.

“It does help a little bit, every dollar helps. I’ve tried my best to maintain the business and keep going,” Evans said adding things are picking up recently so she believes she’ll be able to maintain the business. “I am hopeful you know in last couple weeks it’s nice to have a couple faces I haven’t seen in almost a year.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Fairfield Twp. was allocated $105,426 in the initial award the commissioners approved in early November. Township Administrator Julie Vonderhaar said the short timeframe to set up a program and alert their businesses hampered their efforts initially.

“Part of the issue in Fairfield Twp. was getting the word out to everyone quickly. We also have limited commercial and small business. We are more residential,” she said. “I am hopeful that the township can grant any remaining funds.”

Spending the CARES Act funding has been difficult for many jurisdictions because initially the $2 trillion the federal government approved in late March was restricted to reimbursing direct expenses incurred as a result of the pandemic and the deadline to spend it was the end of December 2020.

Butler County jurisdictions received about $26.8 million, and the restrictive use of the funds was loosened after the U.S. Treasury ruled the money could be used to reimburse salaries of first responders. The deadline was also expanded into this year.

Middletown was awarded $212,648 under the county’s reimbursement program for small businesses and left only $248 unused. City Manager Jim Palenick said awarding the small amount would not fit within the parameters of the successful program they established to distribute the county funds, so they won’t try to award it.

“The program was very much appreciated by the small businesses who have experienced significant economic hardship as a result of the pandemic,” Palenick said. “The grants, in many cases, have allowed the businesses to remain open and viable, awaiting a return to more normal post-pandemic economic conditions.”

Monroe received a $64,056 grant but awarded the least amount of any jurisdiction at $23,067. Jennifer Patterson, assistant city manager for economic development, said they haven’t decided whether to try and issue the rest of their allotment and wouldn’t say why the entire amount wasn’t spent the first time.

There were two communities that added some of their own CARES money to help businesses. Fairfield received $196,518 from the county and Economic Development Manager Nathaniel Kaelin said they funded 86 small businesses with a total of $588,000 in grants, including the city’s contribution.

Liberty Twp. Economic Development Director Caroline McKinney said they awarded 46 grants totaling $442,364. The commissioners provided $179,701 and the township used $262,663 of its CARES dollars.

“The Liberty Twp. program was incredibly successful and we were thrilled to be able to provide much-needed support to so many Liberty small businesses,” McKinney said. “Our team worked diligently with the applicants to position them for success, it was rewarding work to be able to help the township’s small business community.”

If the four communities still can’t use all the funds Commissioner Don Dixon said they will likely redistribute it to the other communities that might have more businesses to help.

By the Numbers

Small Business Relief Program allocation: $1.5 million

Money spent: $1.3 million

Unencumbered amount: $194,725

Businesses helped: Nearly 350

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