• Sun. Apr 2nd, 2023

Hamilton County’s Small Business Relief Grant Program exceeds minority-and women-owned business target

1,400 Small Businesses Funded, Two-Thirds Are Owned by Women or Minorities

By Bridget Doherty

Communications Manager

Hamilton County

Over two-thirds of the small businesses funded by Hamilton County’s Small Business Relief Grant Program self-reported as minority- or women-owned businesses. Hamilton County Commissioners allocated a total of nearly $14 million in federal relief funds in three separate rounds of grant funding to get relief dollars in the hands of 1,400 small business owners who were struggling due to the financial impacts of COVID-19.

When designing the initial program, Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners targeted businesses that were facing barriers accessing federal government COVID-relief funding such as Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).  Hamilton County and HCDC Inc., the County’s Economic Development Office, partnered with the Urban League, African American Chamber, GCMI and others to develop a program that would fill those gaps. Specifically, the County included sole proprietors, meaning small businesses with no employees, in the eligibility criteria.  According to a Brookings Report, 95% of black-owned businesses are sole proprietorships or partnerships with no paid employees. 

“Small businesses are the heart and soul of our nation. With our partner organizations, we built a supportive and inclusive ecosystem for all small businesses including women-owned and minority-owned businesses,” said Commission Board President Stephanie Summerow Dumas. “With every challenging situation, there’s an opportunity to level the playing field and that’s what we’ve done”

“We know many Black-owned businesses were hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic but did not have the same access to COVID-relief funds,” said Commission Vice President Alicia Reece. “We went to work immediately with the Relief-a-thon, Small Business Relief Community events, and other marketing efforts with our partner organizations to bring relief straight to the businesses that needed it the most.”

“Our whole goal was to fill the gaps left by traditional business funding,” said Commissioner Denise Driehaus. “We listened to our partners, we listened to business owners and made tweaks to each round. In the end, we were able to help 1,400 small businesses from all over Hamilton County.”

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers in all three rounds:

  • Businesses (no duplicates): 1406
  • Minority Owned: 698 (50%)
  • Women Owned: 686 (49%)
  • Minority and Women Owned: 427 (30%)

“We were grateful that the County Commissioners entrusted HCDC with the administration of this crucial program for our small businesses,” said Harry Blanton, Senior Vice President of HCDC, Inc. “The grant provided a lifeline to businesses who lost customers due to the pandemic, but still had bills to pay.  We also want to thank the Urban League for a wonderful partnership that helped speed up the review of applications.”

“The Hamilton County Small Business Relief Grant of $10,000 was a blessing and helped us directly address financial shortfalls,” Angela Denmark, DCR Denmark Court Reporting Agency, LLC. “Small Businesses turn on a dime and when we were denied other relief it was very difficult to maintain our business. Pivots alone were not sufficient to keep us thriving, this grant was the number 1 reason that DCR was able to stay open for business and able to take care of some important business expenses.”

CARES Act funding was used in all three rounds. Commissioners allocated additional funds with American Rescue Plan dollars to supplement the final round of grants. Each round was streamlined to improve access for the small business #