On Thursday, Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague announced support for a statewide grant program for small businesses, using the state’s CARES Act money.

Last Tuesday, Sprague was in Jefferson, and he spoke highly of a similar grant program that Ashtabula County implemented earlier this year.

“First of all, I’d like to congratulate you on it, I think it’s very very good,” Sprague said. “I think it would be great if we had a state level program that would do this for small businesses.” 

In late June, the Ashtabula County Commissioners announced the Restart Ashtabula County grant program, which aimed to help Ashtabula County small businesses that had lost a significant amount of their revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The county set aside $250,000 of its CARES Act money to fund the program. The county awarded grants to 45 businesses as a part of the program.

In Thursday’s press release, Sprague mentioned grant programs in Ashtabula and Hamilton counties that are similar to what he would like to see done state-wide.

“Ashtabula County was one of the first counties in the state of Ohio to allow a small business grant program using CARES Act funds,” said Casey Kozlowski, president of the county commissioners. “I would say that the grant program that we unveiled was widely successful. We were able to fund a majority of the businesses that did apply for the grant program.”

Kozlowski would like to have a second round of grants, depending on what the outcome of some legislation, Kozlowski said. The second round of grant funding will depend on how much funding the county has to work with, he said. The county recently received approximately $525,000 in additional CARES Act money, in addition to the $1.2 million the county had been allocated originally.

Sprague’s proposal has been in the works for some time, said Brittany Halpin, Sprague’s press secretary. “We had been working on the proposal in recent weeks and obtaining input from Ohio’s business community,” Halpin said via email.

The state of Ohio has $1.7 billion that must be encumbered and spent before Dec. 31, Halpin said.

In the press release, Sprague called for spending at least $100 million on grants for small businesses. “With thousands of small businesses across the state closed or operating at a limited capacity, now is the time to utilize this federal relief to support Ohio’s small businesses and the families who depend on them,” Sprague said in the statement.

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