COVID Relief Bill: Millions for bars, restaurants, other businesses

In another move to help boost the COVID-influenced Ohio economy, state lawmakers Wednesday approved a relief package that will send hundreds of millions of dollars in multiple directions. A major part of it, $125 million will go to bars, restaurants and hotels statewide to help them recover from last year’s shutdown and the economic downturn that followed throughout the pandemic.

State Representative Phil Plummer, R- Dayton said the plan is badly needed to help many businesses stay afloat.

“This will help them get back on their feet. We lost a lot of businesses during this process. I think this will help them out. It’s not quite where they need to be but I’m sure they’ll appreciate it,” Plummer said.

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The money is meant to enable businesses to cover some debts remaining from last year and help them expand hours as the economy improves.

“Our bars and restaurant, small business owners have been asking and asking for some kind of assistance to kind of bridge the gap until we emerge from what we’ve gone through as a community,” said Rep. Scott Lipps, R- Franklin.

There is also $20 million for outdoor entertainment venues in the form of grants that range from $10,000 to $30,000. Also, $150 million will be available statewide for new businesses that opened after January 1, 2020, just before the pandemic was about to break wide open in March. Funding is also included for childcare providers, foodbanks and other social service agencies.

When the COVID funding plan reached the floor of the Ohio House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon it was met with bipartisan support. Democratic Representative Dontavius Jarrells of Columbus said “It’s getting us one step further to getting our businesses back on track.” Both bills passed with nearly unanimous support.

The two bills in the relief package, SB 108 and SB 109 had been approved earlier in the State Senate and will return there for final approval of minor changes made by the House. Once State Senators add their approval, the bills will go to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature. The Ohio Department of Development Services is expected to handle requests from business for the new grant money. The same agency managed hundreds of millions of dollars in grants made with federal funding last year.