Financial lifeline: How Butler County governments, organizations are addressing need

Several Butler County agencies are coming to the aid of residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by the coronavirus.

Those agencies are pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into their communities to assist those most affected by the possible long-term financial catastrophes caused by COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus.

Traci Barnett, CEO of the Middletown Community Foundation, called the coronavirus “a disaster, a crisis” that will greatly impact small businesses and those living paycheck-to-paycheck. Even when businesses reopen, Barnett said it will, “not be easy for people to catch up.”

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Dan Bates, CEO of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said it’s critical to get financial assistance to those fighting on the front lines as soon as possible.

Hamilton’s City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to send a $300,000 cash infusion to 75 small businesses to help them get through the coronavirus crisis.

The Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce is administering the program and the money will be recovered by city government’s Hamilton Economic Development Corp. over time when the chamber and HEDC sell gift certificates for the businesses to the public, according to Bates.

He said the gift certificates may have redeemable dates two months or more in the future so the businesses can hold onto the money during the crisis, before providing the goods and services to customers.

On Friday, Bates was in his office hand-writing 75 checks to local businesses for a total of $300,000, though he didn’t want to disclose the varying amounts each group received. The funds, he said, would mostly be used for employee salaries and bills as a way to assure the businesses “stay alive.”

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The money came from the city’s budget-stabilization fund, which city government had built up to $2 million in recent years.

The chamber and HEDC will “buy” gift certificates in the amount of each company’s award. The paper certificates that are sold to customers will probably be in $10 denominations.

Mayor Pat Moeller said he hopes the gift certificates help small businesses during these “difficult times.”

The Middletown Community Foundation has established a Coronavirus Emergency Fund to provide grants to area nonprofits that help individuals and families adversely effected by the coronavirus, Barnett said.

The trustees have allocated an initial $50,000 in funding and are asking community members to donate to the fund with the goal of reaching a minimum of $100,000, Barnett said. She said $21,000 was donated the first week, pushing the total to $71,000, and the foundation is doing a mass mailing to companies and individuals in the area in hopes of raising more revenue.

Barnett said the MCF has received several grant applications, including those that would provide child care to children of health care workers; technology for students studying at home; and financial assistance to small, downtown businesses that have closed or reduced their operations.

She recently participated in a conference call with members of the Council of Foundations, a national organization, and the five leaders who spoke said they also were assisting nonprofits in their communities.

Contributions to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund should be made payable to the Middletown Community Foundation, 300 N. Main St., Suite 300, Middletown, OH 45042. Indicate CEF in the memo portion of the check.

John Guidugli, president of the Hamilton Community Foundation, talked Friday with Barnett about her plans and he hopes to create a similar program, possibly as soon as next week. The program, he said, will respond to the needs of the nonprofits in the community.

The Oxford Community Foundation has started the Greater Oxford COVID-19 Organizational Assistance Fund and the first deadline for grant applications is April 15, with grant checks available in May for approved grants.

The grants are available for nonprofit organizations serving residents of Greater Oxford, with needs and projects related to the coronavirus pandemic and its affects, said Betsy Hope, executive director of the foundation.

She said the fund will be permanent because it’s “hard to predict what our local nonprofit’s future needs will be as a result of this crisis, but we stand ready to help them as they help others.”

Donors can give to the fund by mailing a check to Oxford Community Foundation, 22 E. High St., Oxford, OH 45056. The check should be made payable to The Oxford Community Foundation, with OCF COVID-19 Assistance Fund in the memo line. Donations can also be made online with a credit card at

The grant application is available at Funding from the Greater Oxford COVID-19 Organizational Assistance Fund will follow the foundation’s regular granting schedule and procedures.

Two Butler County home energy assistant programs have extended their programs because of the coronavirus, said Jeffrey Diver, executive director of Supports to Encourage Low-income Families (SELF), which administers the programs in Butler County.

The Ohio Development Services Agency said the two programs, set to end Tuesday, will be extended. The Winter Crisis program has been extended until May 1 and the regular HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) until June 1.

Diver said the extensions will allow more families who are “struggling,” especially now due to COVID-19, to receive assistance, though he added households can only access crisis help once during the winter program that began in November 2019.

SELF continues to process energy assistance applications, despite closing its offices to the public due to Gov. Mike DeWine’s Stay-at-Home Order. Butler County residents can still apply for the assistance they need by picking up an application outside SELF’s office in Hamilton, or downloading it online at

Completed applications and copies of required documents for the Winter Crisis Program or HEAP can be submitted in a variety of ways:

• Dropped off outside SELF’s Hamilton office, located at 1790 S. Erie Hwy, Hamilton, 45011. There is a secure lock box located there.

• Mailed to SELF at: PO Box 1322, Hamilton, OH 45012

• Emailed to, or

• Faxed to 513-737-3889

Staff writer Mike Rutledge contributed to this report.

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