Youngstown Approves $50,000 in COVID Grants for 5 Businesses

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Grant funds approved by city officials will provide needed relief to local businesses whose operations have been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At its meeting Thursday morning, the city’s Board of Control approved awarding $50,000 from the COVID-19 Business Stabilization Program to five companies located in the city. The board approved grants of up to $10,000 each for Santisi Wholesale Foods, Westside Bowl, Whistle & Keg LLC, W.C. Zabel Co. and Cinemanix.

The program was created utilizing funds the city received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which was approved in March 2020.

The city allocated $220,000 for the program and accepted applications from Feb. 1 to March 1, said Teresa Miller, executive director of Valley Economic Development Partners.

The organization helped with the program’s underwriting and review process, Miller said. It scored each application and provided those applications to the city to determine based on the scoring which businesses to award the funds to.

A total of 23 businesses were approved for the grants of up to $10,000 each, said Nikki Posterli, Youngstown community planning and economic development director. The program received 70 total applications, and 38 applications were completed and approved as qualified to receive the funds.

The city’s economic development department is completing the due diligence process and finalizing agreements with the grant recipients, Vickie Davanzo, business development recruiter, said. So far, 13 of the 23 grant recipients have been notified they were awarded the grants, she reported.  

Criteria for businesses to be eligible for the program included being in operation for at least a year prior to March 15, 2020; employing between three and 25 individuals meeting certain criteria; and being located in low-to-moderate income Census tracts.

Some applicants didn’t qualify because they were located outside the specified Census tracts, Davanzo said. Others had difficulty providing required profit-and-loss statements within the specified time period.   

The funds will help Westside Bowl with the “significant costs” associated with ramping live music back up at the venue, as well as to ease the burden of stocking back up for increased numbers of patrons and other incidental costs, owner Nate Offerdahl said. Westside Bowl is a venue that offers music, bowling and other activities but the heart of its business is large groups of people congregating.

“For most of the last 14 months, that hasn’t been allowed in a way that it would be financially viable for us to be a fully functioning business,” he said. Even after resuming live performances, the venue operated with limited capacity and required patrons to remain seated.

As pandemic-related restrictions are eased, the venue will “move in the direction of being more open,” he said. It will keep capacity restrictions in place but will permit standing and congregating beginning June 4.

“It’s going to be our first attempt at what we were doing prior to March of 2020,” he remarked.

Pictured: Nate Offerdahl owns Westside Bowl, which was one of the recipients of grant monies from the city. Offerdahl said the funds will help cover “significant costs” with ramping up live music again.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.