When Rural Action’s Marissa Lautzenheiser realized applications were lagging for grants to help Tuscarawas County small businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic, she took action.

“I started calling small businesses I know and patronize and asked them if they were applying for the CARES Act funding,” she says. “One knew vaguely about the funds but didn’t know how to apply or that the deadline was approaching. The rest didn’t even know about it.”

The result of her efforts: Six businesses she spoke with applied, and four received CARES Act funds, with three of them receiving money from both the county and Sandy Township, which is in northeastern Tuscarawas County and includes Mineral City. In addition to being Rural Action’s Northern Programs Director, Marissa serves as a trustee for Sandy Township.

The township awarded a total of $52,000 in grants to the four businesses. In addition, three of the businesses received county grants that totaled $30,000, which was 10% of the $300,000 in total grants the county awarded.

The following businesses received funding:

  • Sandy Valley Management, which owns a shopping plaza in Magnolia, OH, that has 10 small businesses at tenants.
  • Crossroads Restaurant, which is in the shopping plaza and employs 17 people.
  • Magnolia Market, another tenant in the plaza. Without the market, Marissa notes, “we might be a food desert by USDA standards.”
  • Heiwa Center for Holistic Health and Wellness in Mineral City. Marissa says Heiwa is one of the only practices in the area that accepts workers compensation.

“The good news is the CARES Act has been extended so it’s now through all of 2021,” Marissa says.

The bad news? It’s still complicated to apply, and the county’s grant is closed unless the state provides more funding.

“One coffee shop I talked to that didn’t apply said it’s overwhelming and that it’s hard to tell what is legitimate and what isn’t,” Marissa says. “The applications ask for a lot of information. You’re basically admitting to people that you’re struggling through the pandemic. That’s hard to do. There really are obstacles to accessing funds.“

In addition to Marissa’s efforts in Tuscarawas County, Rural Action is working throughout Appalachian Ohio to help small businesses apply for grants and loans to offset the impact of the pandemic. We also are helping townships and counties get the word out so they can disburse as much money as they are entitled to. When CARES Act money isn’t disbursed, it goes back into the common pool for distribution across a wider area.

If you’re a small business or government official and would like more information, please contact Marissa or Dan Vorisek, Rural Action’s Resilient Communities Community Coach.