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Valley lawmakers float $425M in COVID-19 relief for bars, restaurants and venues

“The backbone of the Valley has always been small businesses such as the bar and restaurant industry and to provide them some level of relief during this difficult time is crucial," said state Rep. Al Cutrona.
Mike Loychik - Al Cutrona
State Reps. Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta, left, and Al Cutrona, R-Canfield.

COLUMBUS — Schools, bars, restaurants and hotels are among the businesses and entities across Ohio that could share in more than $2 billion in additional federal COVID-19 relief if a series of bills passed unanimously in the Ohio House also passes the Senate and is signed by Gov. Mike DeWine.

The bulk of the funding would go to schools, which would share $857 million spread out between public, private, service centers and vocational schools. The funding also includes money for the state’s county boards for developmental disabilities, COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution and for the National Guard’s response.

Schools were the key, however.

“Ohio’s schools have been struggling throughout the coronavirus pandemic and House Bill 170 works to ensure they have the funds necessary to get back on their feet and create the best environment possible for our students,” said Rep. Adam Bird of New Richmond, R-66th.

The state’s public schools would receive $683 million, while $154.8 million would go to private schools.

A package of three other House-passed bills included more help for the state’s bar, restaurant and hospitality industries hit hard by stay-at-home orders, curfews and capacity limits for more than a year.

State Rep. Al Cutrona of Canfield, R-59th, introduced House Bill 169, offering $100 million in grants for bars and restaurants and $25 million for the lodging industry.

“COVID-19 has rocked the [Mahoning Valley] and has hit the bar and restaurant industry the hardest,” he said. “The backbone of the Valley has always been small businesses such as the bar and restaurant industry and to provide them some level of relief during this difficult time is crucial.”

Bars and restaurants would receive $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000 grants based on lost revenue and number of employees, according to the House Majority spokesperson. Lodging grants would be awarded in the same increments, based on lost revenue and occupancy rates.

House Bill 168, introduced by state Rep. Mike Loychik of Bazetta, R-63rd, offers $150 million for the Small Business Grant Relief Program, and another $10 million in grants for new businesses. It also puts up:

  • $112 million for child care services;
  • $20 million for entertainment venues that canceled events or performances in 2020;
  • $4.7 million for county fairs that canceled or pared down their 2020 seasons, like the Canfield Fair;
  • $3 million for Ohio’s two veteran homes.

“This is one of the coronavirus relief bills designed to give vital assistance and aid to the many parts of the state and our constituents,” Loychik said. “This will help a lot of Ohioans in need.”

Similarly, indoor entertainment venues could be eligible for $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000 grant awards, depending on lost revenue due to canceled events or performances, according to the House Majority spokesperson.

Grants for businesses established after Jan. 1, 2020, would total $10,000. The Small Business Grant Relief Program would also provide $10,000 grants for businesses that sought funding last year but didn’t get it.

“Since the businesses were unable to operate most of the year 2020 due to a pandemic that included government intervention into their day-to-day operations, it was only fair that these businesses receive funding to get back on their feet,” said Rep. D.J. Swearingen of Huron, R-89th.

Other than schools, the area to receive the most funding would be rental and utility assistance, with $465 million set aside to help landlords, renters and others impacted during the pandemic.

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Mahoning Matters reporter Justin Dennis contributed to this report.