MASON, Ohio — Staying in business for 10 years is usually reason to celebrate, but for Quatman Café in Mason, owner Matt Imm is busy trying to make it to year 11.
“Small business owners, large business owners, everybody’s hurting," he said referring to the economic downturn as a result of COVID-19.
That's why Mason city leaders have come up with a multi-pronged plan to help small businesses in their area to weather the pandemic.
The small business recovery programs are designed to help Mason businesses in a variety of methods including e-gift cards, sewer bill waivers and forgivable loans. The deadline to apply for forgivable loans is Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.
“Immediacy sometimes is more important than the quantity. We want to get the funds out there as fast as possible,” said Eric Hansen, Mason city manager. “You’re talking just over $2 million of business support to those small businesses.”
Hansen said the money comes from the city's general fund and the city is working with the Mason Deerfield Chamber of Commerce and the community improvement corporation to pull the plans together.
Keeping people on the job is one goal of the program. Imm said he initially had to lay off half of his 20 workers when the pandemic first started. But he's managed to bring them back. He still applied for the loan to help offset the new cost of doing business in the middle of a pandemic.
"Some restaurants that weren’t set up for carry-out, and single-use or single-serve items, you have to purchase all that stuff as you’re selling it,” Imm said. “Obviously, your bank account takes a hit from those added purchases that you otherwise wouldn’t have had.”
“The loan is forgiven if they’re able to maintain their payroll a year to two years after this, after the loan is received,” Hansen said. The loan amounts range from $2,500 to $15,000. There is also a $1,000 grant available.
Even though the program is designed to help Mason's small business owners, the programs also include some perks for residents, for example, e-gift cards are worth more than face value.
“When they’re redeemed, the recipients of those gift cards buy up. So if I get a $20 gift card, that means I can spend $40,” Hansen said.
Also, any business or resident who usually gets a monthly sewer bill in Mason won't get a bill in July.
“The billing’s actually zero for that month, with the encouragement that that amount saved, they go back and spend it locally for small businesses,” Hansen said.
Imm said, having a steady flow of customers keeps them afloat.
"That’s your lifeblood, customers coming in the door," Imm said. "When that stops, it hurts."