At the beginning of the month, Franklin County and the Columbus Urban League launched a community equity fund. The $2 million in federal CARES Act funding is meant to support Black business owners who have lost revenue since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Applications were supposed to remain open until the end of November, but just over a week later, business owners have already requested more than 10 times the amount of set-aside funding.
“As of this morning, we have had 600 inquiries representing more than $20 million in funding that is needed,” says Stephanie Hightower, president of the Columbus Urban League.
In their applications, businesses have to demonstrate they lost at least a quarter of their revenue because of the pandemic since March of 2020.
“This has proved how great the need is in Central Ohio for funds for minority businesses to stay afloat,” Hightower says.
Hightower points to businesses like barbershops, which were closed for two months this spring and now can’t accommodate as many customers because of social distancing rules.
“These grants will give us the ability to help these folks to figure out in an innovative way how they can re-imagine their businesses and keep their doors open,” she says.