Ontario City Council Sept. 16

Ontario City Council discusses donating part of the city's CARES funding to the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce's small business grant program.

ONTARIO — The City of Ontario will contribute $25,000 of its CARES Act funding to a grant program for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

City council approved the measure Wednesday night. The funds will go toward the Small Business Grant Program administered by the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce. Funds from the City of Ontario will be limited to Ontario applicants.

Both the City of Mansfield and Richland County Commissioners have contributed CARES Act funds to the program.

“I thank you for doing this because I think it’s good to help our small businesses," Mayor Randy Hutchinson told council after the vote.

According to Jodie Perry, chamber president and CEO, 273 local businesses applied for grants, including 17 in Ontario. The application deadline was Sept. 13.

"We received more applications that we could fund off the bat, so this will allow us to help additional businesses that applied," Perry said. "We know by the amount of applications there's a strong need for support, so we certainly appreciate the city's contribution in putting this money forward so we can help our area businesses."

Businesses also had to meet basic eligibility requirements, which included having 20 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees or fewer, having $1.5 million or less in revenues in 2019, having been in operation prior to Sept. 1, 2019 and being a for-profit business.

In response to questions from Third Ward council member Sherry Branham, Perry stated that no chain or franchise operation would be eligible for the grant program, and that receiving aid through the Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan program would not impact a business' eligibility. 

“We look at how long they’ve been in business, the experience of the owners, the impact of COVID on their revenues, employee size," Perry said "Are they in a disadvantaged zip code? Are they a disadvantaged business owner? Is their industry particularly impacted by (COVID-19)?"

The City of Ontario received two CARES Act payments, which totaled $67,615.44 These funds must be encumbered by Oct. 15 and spent on COVID-19 related expenses by Dec. 30.

While the city chose to absorb the early costs associated with COVID-19, which consisted mostly of PPE and cleaning supplies. Hutchinson said the city is still waiting on estimates from two companies regarding the cost of installing touchless sinks, faucets and toilets in the restrooms at public parks and public bathrooms in city buildings.

At a previous meeting, Hutchinson told council that project will likely cost between $40,000 and $45,000.

Hutchinson said also discussed the possibility of holding citywide Trick or Treat on Oct. 31 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Various council members voiced their support.

“It’s something good for the community to feel a little bit of normalcy," At Large Councilman Eddie Gallo said.

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Katie is a staff reporter focusing on business, education and feature reporting. She is a 2014 graduate of Clear Fork High School and studied journalism and Spanish at Asbury University.