City OKs Nearly $60,000 in COVID-19 Relief Grants to Businesses

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The city Board of Control today approved awarding nearly $60,000 in relief grants to small businesses that took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grants of up to $10,000 were approved for Grinding Equipment Machinery LLC, Ryes Craft Beer & Whiskey, Sun Auto Sales, Happy Campers Learning Center and Kollege Tots & Kids II. A grant for $9,600 was approved for Lil Indians Mobile Meals. The grant funds are part of the city’s COVID-19 Business Stabilization Program, which was created using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

For Kollege Tots’ owner Donna Gibson, the grant comes at an opportune time. When the pandemic struck, the day care center was in the process of moving to 3613 Market St. from 123 E. Rayen Ave., Gibson says. In March 2020, the state ordered all child care service providers to shut down unless they had a Temporary Pandemic Child Care license issued by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Kollege Tots had already invested $20,000 to renovate the new building and still had to continue the move, which was completed in December, Gibson says.

“Everything was kind of unraveling at the same time,” she says.

Before the pandemic, Kollege Tots had 45 to 50 kids enrolled. When the state allowed child care centers to reopen with restricted ratios, that number fell to 12. Currently, Kollege Tots has about 30 enrolled. The company is also slowly bringing back its transportation services, which it had to shut down because of the pandemic.

“We’re picking back up slowly, but we’re not where we were before the pandemic,” Gibson says. “That’s pretty much due to the parents are still not back at work.”

Gibson hopes to be back to capacity by December.

Between renovations and other expenses, Gibson has invested some $50,000 out-of-pocket into the new building, she says. “When I got the letter saying I was accepted for the grant, I was elated. We truly do need the money.” The day care’s new playground is nearly complete, she says, and the next project will be to renovate the building’s facade and improve curb appeal.

Youngstown allocated $220,000 for the COVID-19 Business Stabilization Program and accepted applications during the month of February. A total of 23 businesses were approved for the grants of up to $10,000. The program received 70 total applications, and 38 applications were completed and approved as qualified to receive the funds.

Criteria included being in operation for at least a year before March 15, 2020; employing between three and 25 individuals meeting certain criteria; and being based in low-to-moderate income census tracts.

Pictured: Ryes Craft Beer & Whiskey is one of six area businesses to receive grant funds from the city’s COVID-19 Business Stabilization Program.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.