New Middletown loan program aims to help small businesses stay afloat in pandemic

Posted at 5:55 PM, Nov 09, 2020

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into its ninth month, many federal funds aimed at helping small business owners have dried up and those local businesses are searching for more assistance. As a result, Middletown is now working to provide thousands of dollars in forgivable micro-loans for local entrepreneurs.

Initial PPP loans helped many local businesses stay on top of bills and rent over the summer, but as the pandemic stretches into the fall and winter months, entrepreneurs need a new form of aid to keep going.

"For us, being a more upscale restaurant, take out wasn’t the easiest pivot and it didn’t make a lot of sense for us," said Ami Vitori, owner of Gracie's Restaurant in Middletown. She was able to gain a PPP loan initially, but is now searching for a plan to keep moving forward.

In Middletown, city officials are working to provide that aid. A total of $170,000 is up for grabs in the form of micro-loans local business owners can apply for to help save their livelihoods.

"Programs like this are very important, particularly for our small business community," said Susan Cohen, who works in administrative services for the City of Middletown. "These grants are focusing on people that are employing 25 or less employees. These are the businesses that are providing day to day services and jobs for our citizens."

Next week, the city will start accepting applications for the new micro-loan program and eligible businesses can receive up to $10,000.

"In order to be eligible you have to have a physical brick and mortar location inside of the Middletown city limits," said Cohen. "You’ve had to have experienced a downturn of approximately 20% in your business due to COVID-related concerns and as part of this you also have to pledge to maintain at least one job for low to moderate income residents. That can include the owner or an employee."