Just days after local officials announced they were seeking a state grant to help small businesses during the economic downturn, they have learned that $250,000 is now on its way to the county to do just that.
The announcement came Friday in a news release from the Miami County Economic Development Authority. That agency, along with representatives from the City of Peru, helped the Miami County Board of Commissioners apply for the grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, or OCRA, earlier this month.
“Our overall goal is to try to assist as many small businesses as we can in Miami County,” Jim Tidd, executive director of MCEDA, told the Tribune on Wednesday, shortly after the grant application was announced.
The $250,000 awarded is the maximum allowable by the OCRA program, Tidd said Friday.
They have received a verbal notice that the money is on its way and officials expect a formal letter in days, the release said.
The money will establish what officials are calling the “Small Business Stabilization Fund” and the assistance will be aimed at business owners who hire independent contractors such as hair salons and barbershops as well as the “contractors” – hair stylists and barbers – who work in them. The fund administrators also want to try and help restaurants who are not typically set up for drive-thru service, gyms and fitness centers and “other small businesses where no federal assistance program has been announced or released,” according to an earlier release about the fund.
“Whether that business is in Peru, Converse, whatever small town it is in,” Tidd said earlier this week.
Officials are now finalizing applications and cover letters with instructions so local businesses can begin applying for the funds.
“Hopefully it will be posted on our website Monday or Tuesday,” Tidd said.
The target date for beginning to accept applications is noon on April 29, according to the release. Cut off for the first round of applications will be 4 on May 6. Applications will only be accepted electronically to an email posted on MCEDA’s website at www.miamicountyeda.com,
Officials, the most recent release said, expect there to be “a large demand for these funds.”
Because of the demand, Tidd and the press release both said that those reviewing grant applications may not always award the full requested amount so that they can spread the available funds around the county.
“We are going to try our best to use that money to benefit as many businesses as we can,” he said.
A local nurse who has spent the last three weeks in New York City says she has seen firsthand how dangerous the novel coronavirus is and that everyone needs to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously.
“I saw more death than what I’ve seen in my six years as a nurse,” Amy Lennon told the Tribune on Monday, talking about her first two weeks working at Coney Island Hospital.
Lennon, 29, is a Peru High School graduate who lives these days in Kokomo where she works in the emergency room at Ascension St. Vincent.
Early on in the pandemic, she said, she began researching opportunities to work a weeks-long “deployment” in areas where extra health care workers were needed.
After days of trying to get through, she finally reached someone with one of the recruiting companies in early April.
“You had 48 hours to be here,” she recalled. “I thought I’d have like a week to prepare.”
She packed her bags, boarded a plane, attended an orientation and, since April 6, has been working 12-hour shifts, 7 days a week, caring for patients sick with the virus.
But Lennon says she is not only working for them.
“But the staff members of Coney Island who have been working 24-hours shifts,” she said. “They are tired and most of them are sick.”
In a roughly 30-minute, morning conversation following her Sunday-night shift, Lennon tried to describe how taxing the virus has been on the resources of the city and how widespread the devastation has been.
“It doesn’t even begin to touch what was really going on,” she said of news reports coming out of New York.
During the early shifts in her deployment, she said rooms in the emergency room were forced to hold well over the number of patients they were designed to hold, and areas designed to hold 18 to 20 patents would be occupied by 40 to 50.
“You literally couldn’t even walk through the ER,” she said.
Patients would come in sick with symptoms from the disease early in the night “and be dead by the end of my shift,” she said.
That is what has been so scary about it, according to Lennon.
“It’s not just the flu, it attacks every body system,” she said.
It can all be overwhelming at times, Lennon admitted.
“I’ve done a lot of crying since I’ve been here,” she said.
Despite the risks and the stress involved, her family says they are proud of her.
Her brother, Tom Lennon Jr., said he wasn’t supportive of the idea at first, but as an Air Force veteran himself, he said he recognized the desire to serve.
“She wasn’t looking for that attention, she just wanted to help out,” he said.
Lennon’s father, Tom Sr., said much the same thing.
He too is an Air Force veteran and, just like his son, recalled that Amy had wanted to serve in the Air Force as a flight nurse, but didn’t meet height and wingspan requirements.
Her father said he viewed what she is doing now much like his own service.
“This is sort of like a military mission,” he said
“We are really proud of her, I’ll tell you,” Tom Lennon Sr. said.
In New York, Lennon says she is bolstered by her faith and remains in contact with her fiance, her pastor and her family to help get her through. She also has the camaraderie of the coworkers who have become her friends in the past three weeks.
“I have a huge support system,” she said.
She returns home on Monday and expects to quarantine herself upon her arrival.
That time, when things slow down drastically for her, will give her more time to reflect on her time in the city and she said she will likely have to rely on that support system again as she deals with the expected flood of emotions.
“I do worry about that,” she said pondering the possible negative mental health repercussions of the experience. “I don’t think I am going to be the same after this.”
The Tribune has established a $150,000 fund to help local businesses get back to full strength by subsidizing their marketing through matching grants.
Area businesses can now apply for a grant to help them recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We realize this is a critical time for our business community, and we wanted to subsidize their marketing through this grant,” said Linda Kelsay, publisher of the Tribune.
“As businesses begin to think about opening, even if it’s on a limited basis, it’s vital that they communicate with their customers. We want to be a resource for them to do that.”
The fund is open to all locally owned and operated businesses impacted by the coronavirus., whether or not they are current advertisers.
Grant money can be used for local Tribune print newspaper and special product advertising, between April 28 and June 30, 2020. Grants are available for a minimum of $200 and a maximum of $5000 of matching funds each month. For example, if a business is awarded a grant and spends $200 in advertising, the Tribune will match with a grant of $200 additional advertising dollars to equal $400.
To apply for a dollar-for-dollar matching advertising grant, applications must be submitted at perutribune.com, click on the “How Do I?” banner and apply for a “Matching Advertising Grant.” The applications and project will go live by April 28.
“A community newspaper is only ever as strong as the community it serves. We know businesses and workers are hurting; we’re hurting, too. But if we can pull together as a community we can weather this,” Kelsay said.
The Peru Tribune is launching an interactive campaign to celebrate our Miami County’s seniors! With COVID-19 disrupting graduation plans and daily life for our students, we want to do something special to commemorate their hard work and memories. We will be posting photo challenges at facebook .com/perutribune/ starting this week, and the best submissions will be featured on our website and in a special section published in the paper at the end of the school year. Submit your favorite memories to jkeever@ perutribune.com or post your memories and photos to your social media page using the hashtag #MC Classof2020 to participate.