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Make funds available soon

It is virtually certain that the COVID-19 epidemic has been a death sentence for some small businesses.

Months of economic activity slowdowns, combined with the reluctance of some customers to visit retail outlets, restaurants and other businesses, have been hard on entrepreneurs with limited bank accounts.

Good for local government officials who plan to use some federal relief funding to help businesses, then.

Among them are Belmont County commissioners.

Last week, they established the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Small Business Grant Program.

It will utilize $350,000 in federal funding to aid businesses that have not been helped directly by federal assistance initiatives.

In addition to that restriction, businesses applying for the county money can have no more than 30 employees and less than $1 million in gross annual income.

Clearly, the commissioners are intent on aiding true small businesses. They want to support people who have lived and worked here, not those who have merely expanded their already successful operations into the local region.

County Auditor Anthony Rocchio noted the program will be relatively flexible, allowing grant recipients to use money for a variety of purposes, including payroll. There is little that is more important to a business than that.

Anytime the federal government is involved in something, a mountain of red tape can be counted upon.

Add to that unavoidable local delays such as those in preparing criteria for the program, and it will take some time to get the money flowing.

Rocchio has said he hopes to be making grants by October.

The sooner, the better.

Many small businesses in our area have struggled for months.

Some owners already have called it quits.

Others are near the ends of their ropes.

For them, Belmont County commissioners’ initiative may provide a lifeline — if the money is available quickly.

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