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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.

Small Business Owners Can Get Help Applying For Grants With New Hamilton Co. Program

stephanie summerow dumas
Becca Costello
Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Stephanie Summerow Dumas announcing the 513 Small Business Assist program in St. Bernard, July 14, 2021.

Thousands of small businesses in Hamilton County are eligible for a new program aimed at helping them apply for financial support. The county is using half a million dollars in leftover CARES Act money to fund the 513 Small Business Assist Program.

Commission President Stephanie Summerow Dumas says many business owners are on the brink of giving up.

"We know it's been a hard time for you," Summerow Dumas said. "Hamilton County will do all we can do to bring hope to you — this is only a dream that was deferred."

The program is open to businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Business owners will get one-on-one mentoring in accounting, legal and marketing.

" 'We need experts; we need someone that can navigate through all of this red tape,' " Vice President Alicia Reece says she's heard from small business owners. " 'I'm trying to run my business; I don't have time, I don't have paralegals or lawyers on staff that can cut through that.' "

Jon Newberry, owner of Wiedemann's Brewery in St. Bernard, says grants kept his business afloat over the past year.

"It's been tough, but the assistance has been critical for us," Newberry said. "I wouldn't be here as the owner of Wiedemann's Brewery if it wasn't for the assistance I've gotten. So this is another step — I think it's really necessary."

The county hopes to work with 2,000 businesses by the end of the year. The program will also set up a center where business owners can access scanners to digitize documents required for online grant applications.

The county is contracting with several organizations to provide the back-office services: the National Development Council, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, African American Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative, Urban League, Next Street and HCDC Inc.

You can contact the 513 Small Business Assist Program at:

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.