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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Hamilton County Health Ready To Handle Safety Complaints

Bill Rinehart

As the number of businesses continue to reopen, local health officials will be watching the coronavirus numbers. 

In Hamilton County, data suggests new COVID-19 cases are increasing. But the number of deaths and hospitalizations have been slowly declining the last two weeks.

County Commission President Denise Driehaus says that's because people have been following safety recommendations, including physical distancing, washing hands and wearing masks.

"The fear is that as we start to see a change in these openings, that behaviors change to a point where we no longer see that trend," Driehaus said.

The Hamilton County Health Department is ready to respond if businesses aren't complying with reopening safety guidelines. 

Interim Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said he has 12 workers who are ready to investigate complaints.

"Our process is a phone call to the store first," Kesterman said. "Secondly if we continue to get complaints we will go to the store and do an inspection, and then if necessary, we'll issue a notice of violation."

Kesterman said the department has been responding to about 40 complaints a day, which is less than what he expected. But he does expect that number to grow as more businesses begin reopening.

Meanwhile, the county is finalizing the application process for the Small Business Relief Program. It will offer grants for some small firms in the county. The county is using $5 million from the federal government for the effort. 

It's now a grant program, originally announced as a forgivable loan.

The county released from more details Friday. Applications are expected to be available the week of May 18.

Eligibility requirements for businesses:

  • be located in Hamilton County
  • be a small business that has been in operation since January, 2019
  • have less than $1 million in gross revenue/receipts on an annual basis
  • consist of between 2 and 50 employees (two lotteries based on small business size of two to 10 employees or 11 to 50 employees)
  • have experienced a decrease in gross revenue/receipts of 35% or more due to COVID-19
  •  not already received federal assistance

So what can the money be used for?

  • mortgage payments and rent payments 
  • utility payments
  • salaries or wages of employees employed by the business.
  • materials and supplies related to business interruption 
  • Personal Protective Equipment or other COVID-19 related costs to re-opening

Business can choose to apply for a $5,000 or $10,000 grant. There will be two lotteries for get through the pre-application process. One will be for those with two to ten employees, and the other is for those with 11 to 50 employees.
You can visit Hamilton County's websiteto get more information and to begin the sign-up process.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.