COLUMBUS- State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today asked Gov. Mike DeWine and leaders of the General Assembly to utilize Ohio’s $2.7 billion “Rainy Day” fund to support small business that will be negatively impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus emergency. Lepore-Hagan is proposing that the rainy day fund be used to issue short-term, no-interest loans to business owners unable to pay rent, utility bills, taxes, health insurance and workers’ compensation premiums, employee wages and other expenses as a result of the emergency. She issued the following statement:

“We’re in the midst of one of the rainiest days in Ohio history. Since the state issued the emergency declaration yesterday, I’ve received numerous calls from small business owners asking if the state is going to help them weather the storm. I believe the answer should be a resounding ‘yes.’

Like many of my constituents, business owners are operating week-to-week, and in some cases day-to-day. Unlike large corporations, they don’t have huge cash reserves, so an extended loss of revenue could force them to close. The state can afford to help these hardworking men and women. We should do exactly that.

People are focused on the pandemic’s effect on the stock market, but they’re ignoring what’s happening to the small market down the street. The stock market will eventually rebound, but if an owner if forced to close up shop because he or she can’t pay their bills during the crisis, that business is going to be gone forever.”

Small business failures will roil Ohio’s economy. Landlords will lose, tens of thousands of people could lose their jobs and their health insurance, suppliers will go unpaid and state and local tax revenue will plummet. The potential losses could easily climb into the tens of billions of dollars. If we can lessen the impact by keeping small businesses afloat, we should do it.

I believe we could quickly set up a no-interest, short-term loan program underwritten by the rainy day fund that will enable small business people to ride out the crisis. We can provide support for basic expenses like rent, utilities, and health insurance premiums. In addition, the state should place a temporary moratorium on tax collections. Helping small businesses survive this emergency is going to be less expensive than dealing with the massive business failures it could cause.”

According to Lepore-Hagan, businesses with 50 or fewer employees would qualify for assistance from the rainy day fund loan program and would have to demonstrate that they are in imminent danger of closing as a result of the health crisis.

“The business people I spoke to aren’t looking for a handout, they’re simply asking us to help them stay afloat in the short term,” Lepore-Hagan added. “I view the proposal as a long-term investment in the economic health of our state.”

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