Small businesses that are struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic have several places they can turn for help, and Rural Action is committed to helping them navigate the sometimes-complicated process of finding and applying for grants.

Here are three potential options: one that is statewide, one for businesses within the Village of Somerset (Perry County), and a third for businesses in Athens County. We also have included a fourth option for rural nonprofits.

Ohio’s $125m Small Business Relief Grants

The State of Ohio is offering Small Business Relief Grants of up to $10k, but the grants are being made on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s important to get ready to file quickly. The application process begins Monday, Nov. 2 at the Ohio Development Services Agency website.

Here are a few key details:

  • These grants are for businesses with 1-25 employees (full- or part-time, but must be paid via W-2 wages).
  • Businesses that receive grants can use the money for a variety of expenses, including mortgage or rent payments; utility payments; salaries, wages, or compensation for employees and contractors; business supplies or equipment; and other costs.
  • While the grants are first come, first served, about $44m has been set aside to ensure that each of Ohio’s 88 counties receives at least $500,000 in grants. After $500,000 has been distributed in a county, money from the remaining pool of funds will be used to fund grants until it runs out.
  • If the $500,000 allotted for a county hasn’t been distributed within 21 days of the application period opening, the remaining money will be returned to the general grant fund for distribution statewide.

Athens County Small Business Relief Fund

Small businesses in Athens County can receive up to $5,000 to reimburse COVID-related expenses, but the Oct. 30 application deadline is approaching fast.

Here are a few details:

  • Businesses must have been impacted by the state-mandated closures that began March 15th due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Impacts may include loss of employees or revenue. Business must include percent of revenue loss on application.
  • Businesses must be located in Athens County and in operation prior to Feb. 15, 2020 and must have more than two full time equivalent employees as of March 15. Businesses with annual gross revenue of $2m are preferred.
  • Businesses must be licensed in the state of Ohio and not have any outstanding tax liability for over six months to the state of Ohio.
  • Grants can be used to cover the costs of business interruption caused by required closures or expenses the business faces due to its uncertainty as to its ability to pay due to the pandemic.

For more details on eligibility, acceptable uses of grant money, and how to apply, please see the Athens County Economic Development Council website. Applications and related documentation must be submitted to by Friday, Oct. 30 at 3 p.m.

Somerset Small Business Relief Fund

This program will provide small businesses (30 or fewer employees) based in Somerset, Ohio, with grants to cover expenses due to business interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible small businesses may apply for up to $3,000 in grant funds to be used for the reimbursement of eligible expenses.

Here are details:

  • Businesses must have a location in Somerset, have fewer than 30 full time equivalent employees, and less than $1m in gross revenue/receipts annually.
  • Expenses must be related to necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
  • Grants will not be awarded for expenses that have received or been approved for other federal assistance related to the pandemic, including Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Emergency Disaster Loan.
  • Grant funds can be used only to pay the expenses of the business: a) related to the costs of business interruption caused by required closures; or b) that the business faces due to its uncertainty as to its ability to pay due to the pandemic.

These grants are being awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and the application deadline is Nov. 12. To apply, please see the Somerset Small Business Support Application website.

Recovery Grant Fund for Rural Nonprofits

Here’s an option for rural nonprofits, but act fast. Applications close on Friday, Oct. 30. Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) is offering grants up to $10,000 to help cover the operational costs of nonprofits providing essential social services.

Here are a few details:

  • Essential social services include but are not limited to providing basic necessities, health care services, employment assistance, digital equity services, financial assistance, educational support assistance and access.
  • Funds are to be used for salaries, rent and utility payments, digital access, IT equipment, supplies, outreach, and other items that the nonprofit needs in order to continue providing services.
  • Grants are for nonprofit organizations with operating budgets under $2M in rural communities located in the following 17 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

For more information or to apply, see the Rural LISC website.

Need assistance with grant details or applications? Send an email to Ellie Dudding at Rural Action.