COVID-19 Impact Micro-Grants Coming to Noble County

KENDALLVILLE — Noble County received a $95,250 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs Wednesday to help keep small businesses afloat.

The grant announced by Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s daily COVID-19 press conference was one of 13 awarded to rural Hoosier communities. The federal grants from the COVID-19 Response Program totaled $1.96 million.

This was the first round of awards from this grant program, making Noble County among the inaugural recipients.

The $95,250 will help to fund a micro-grant program that will target at-risk small county businesses in partnership with Noble County Economic Development Corp.
“I am really excited,” said Gary Gatman, Noble County’s EDC’s executive director.

Gatman said the grant is part of a comprehensive program being developed by the Noble County EDC, Visit Noble County and the area chambers. Recently the webpage was launched directing local residents to area small businesses that remain open during the governor’s stay-at home order.

The micro-grant program will provide money to small businesses in Noble County to help them keep the lights on in their businesses.

Gatman said the EDC is looking to help those family businesses with 20 or fewer employees, those that are being “hit the hardest.”

“We hear from a lot of our businesses that they are struggling right now,” he said. “Some don’t know what the future looks like, there is just a high level of anxiety.”

“When we look at our quality of life here in Noble County we need to make sure those small businesses survive.”

A Main Street America survey of nationwide businesses showed that about 3.5 million small businesses nationally are in danger of closing permanently over the next two months, with another 7.5 million at risk over the next five months.

Only a few businesses locally responded to the survey, but of 15 answers from Kendallville, 13 had shuttered due to COVID-19. Nine of those 15 businesses said they felt at risk of closing permanently within five months, with another three concerned that closure may be possible if disruptions last longer.

All but two of the 15 businesses reported at least some decrease in revenue, with six businesses reporting more than 75% in lost income.

Gatman is hoping to have final information on the OCRA grant next week, allowing businesses to begin to apply for grants locally.

He said they are hoping to give out between 50 and 75 small grants locally to businesses to help meet their current needs. Local businesses are encouraged to watch the EDC’s website for more information in the coming week.

Gatman said the application will be an easy one to get money in the hands of area businesses as quickly as possible.

Crouch said the money was made available after talking with local elected officials and Main Street organizations around the state who stressed a real need for dollars.

“Our rural communities are truly the next economic frontier and we have to do all we can to ensure they survive this crisis,” she said.

An executive order issued in March allowed OCRA to redirect Community Development Block Grant funds to assist with COVID-19 needs, based on guidance from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Others receiving grant money include: Lacrosse, Cass County, Tippecanoe County, city of Logansport, city of Bargersville, North Manchester, Fulton County, city of Delphi, city of Knox, Hebron, Pike County and Greensburg.