Richland County courthouse

Richland County Courthouse

MANSFIELD -- Richland County commissioners may consider adding additional CARES Act funds to the local small business emergency relief grant program.

A total of 273 small businesses applied for the $500,000 grant program funded by the county and the City of Mansfield, with both entities putting in federal COVID-19 relief dollars approved by Congress in March as the pandemic began.

The maximum grant each business could receive is $7,500, which means the fund could easily be emptied when awards are announced Sept. 28 by the Richland Area Chamber & Economic Development, which is coordinating the program.

The county's $275,000 allocation came from its initial $2 million in CARES Act funds. It has since received an additional $1 million in a second round and expects to get another $4.3 million in a third round when its release is approved the Ohio House of Representatives.

If the third round is approved as expected, that would mean the county will have received $7.3 million in COVID-19 relief funds, which must be encumbered by Oct. 15 and spent by the end of 2020 on expenses related to the pandemic that were not part of the county's original annual budget.

Commissioner Marilyn John, who headed up the project with Jodie Perry, president and CEO of the chamber, said Tuesday morning she spoke with Perry on Monday about the online grant applications, the deadline for which was Sunday night at midnight.

"We have not received the third round of funds yet," John said. "The good news is we have done a lot of the work already. We are also not sure how much other jurisdictions will be putting in."

Mansfield City Council is expected to vote Tuesday night to appropriate the $845,193.07 the city received in the second round.

There are no funds in that amount set aside for additional small business grants with the bulk of it going to the fire department ($267,617), maintenance department ($247,380) and police department ($178,586.)

The City of Ontario may also participate by contributing up to $25,000 for use by businesses within city limits. Its council is expected to vote on that issue Wednesday night.

Officials have said businesses not receiving grants in the first round will be placed on a "waiting list" for consideration if additional funds are added.

"I don't think we have an idea yet (on the additional amount)," Commissioner Tony Vero said. "We will consult with Jodie after she has reviewed the applications. She knows the money is potentially there."

Vero said he expects to bring in a CARES Act funding proposal next week for the sheriff's department payroll and benefits, especially in the county jail.

"The sheriff's department, the jail in particular, has been in the front lines (during the pandemic.) We have about 18 pages of documents that will show how our sheriff's department substantially dedicated their services in response to the pandemic.

"We plan to use a large portion, several million, on public safety payroll," Vero said. "But let's say we use $3 million, that would mean we still have $2.3 million to spend."

Support Our Journalism

Do you want to know the who, what, where, why and how in local news? Become a Source member to support the most diverse coverage of our region.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"