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Ft. Mitchell to Create Funding Program for Small Businesses

The Fort Mitchell city council approved a resolution on Monday during its virtual meeting that will establish a fund for small businesses in the city impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Administrator Sharmili Reddy explained that $100,000 would be set aside for the fund.

Some details still need to be ironed out, such as whether the money would be offered as a grant or as a low-interest or even forgivable loan, but the city hopes to be writing checks by the end of next week, she said. 

"We think it's really important to get this program out as soon as possible because we know they are needing the money right now," Reddy said of small businesses operating in the city. "We are hoping to have this up and running by this Friday and start accepting applications immediately thereafter."

Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation (Tri-ED) would handle the application process and funds, Reddy said.

"We're looking at this in a very short time-frame to get it in the hands of our business owners," she said.

Some conversation during the meeting indicated that city leaders want to define a small business as having between three and fifty employees, and being independently operated in the city. 

Fort Mitchell city council meets online Monday (screenshot)

"We want to make sure this is going to the small business owner in Fort Mitchell, not the chains," said Councilwoman Kim Nachazel. "We want it to go to the small people invested in Fort Mitchell paying the high rents in the shopping centers."

With $100,000 available, Reddy said that forty businesses could be helped in an amount of $2,500. The funds would be restricted in their use, such as for rent, utilities, and payroll. The loan or grant amount could be increased if the city wanted to assist fewer businesses. The money is likely to be awarded in the order in which applications are received and then approved.

Other criteria that need to be nailed down include requirements that the business be impacted by the mandated closures or restrictions brought on by the global pandemic, and to have operated in the city for a period of time (such as at least 30 or 60 days). The city may also want to see that the business has sought assistance from the federal programs that were announced for businesses in response to the pandemic.

No financial institutions or nonprofits are permitted to apply.

"The language is broad, but that is because this is a program that we are developing and trying to move forward quickly, but it does state that there will be criteria developed that Sharmili alluded to," City Attorney Claire Parsons said. "This is a resolution authorizing a creation of this program."

The resolution was adopted unanimously.

"When it comes to the federal small business loans, it's coming from a pot, so when it's gone, it's gone," said Councilman Greg Pohlgeers. "I think you're going to see a lot of small businesses miss out on this. That's why I think it's important to see the city step up.

"I've always viewed the city as having a role in economic development. This is nothing more than an extension of that."

Pohlgeers noted that while the city itself is also likely to see its budget take a hit due to the pandemic, it may be saving in other areas due to the cancellation of recreation events.

City governments in Covington and Newport have announced similar efforts for businesses in those cities.

Mayor Jude Hehman said that this program is one that small business owners would hopefully remember. "I want them to say, hey, look what Ft. Mitchell city council did for us, and we want to stay here and be part of this community and hopefully it does help somebody out and offset some of the expenses to keep them here," he said.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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