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August 8, 2020

7/29/2020 11:13:00 AM
JC EDC is determined to help
Jennings County Economic Development is determined to help small businesses survive the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

To date, the organization has worked with several other agencies/businesses to secure protective equipment and provide grants to local businesses. Now, the EDC has set its sights on applying for what could be a bonanza for local entrepreneurs as they struggle to maintain employment and cash flow even as the battle against COVID continues.

EDC Director Kathy Ertel explained the newest initiative to the commissioners at their meeting Thursday evening and to ask for their "blessing" to proceed.

The EDC plans to apply for a $250,000 COVID-19 Disaster Relief & Assistance Grant through the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs.

"We think we have a great shot at this," Ertel told the officials, especially because the EDC's initial grant "threshold" statement to the state was given the green light to apply for the full grant.

If awarded, there would be approximately 20 to 25 grants awarded, from $5000 to $10,000 per business.

Already, there is "a waiting list" of businesses interested in applying for these grants, she said, as "a lot needs to be done for small businesses."

The EDC completed a survey this spring on the impact COVID was having on local small business. This helped spur the organization into action, as the results showed the virus was having a devastating impact.

Survey Shows Need

The survey revealed:

• 91 percent of those answering said they experienced "a negative impact of some kind";

• 72 percent said they suffered a "significant negative impact";

• 19 percent said they experienced a "minimal negative impact"'

• 6 percent noted their business had not been impacted by COVID; and

• 3 percent said COVID has had a "significant positive impact" on their business.

Ertel's explanation of the grant served as a "public hearing" on the application as she asked the commissoners to endorse the project. The officials voted unanimously to do so.

If the award is approved, local grant applications would be reviewed by the Jennings County Way Forward Task Force, comprised of a "real cross section" of local people, including elected officials Baron Wilder and Mike Gerth and a representative(s) from the JC School Corp., JC Community Founda-tion; and several from the small business, banking and wellness community. The EDC board will then review the applications with OCRA having the final grant approvals.

Hopefully, the grants would be available for September funding.

Eligiblility for the grants include:

• Being a JC businesses with up to 50 employees;

• Operating for at least 6 months prior to March 6, 2020;

• Having gross receipts of less than $1 million;

• Showing financial impact and need as a result of the virus; and

• Having at least 51 percent of employees retained by funds low-to-moderate income.

If approved, the grants "will be a shot in the arm for small businesses," concluded Ertel.

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