• City of Charlestown

City of Charlestown receives $250,000 award for COVID-19 small business economic recovery program


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City of Charlestown receives $250,000 award for COVID-19 small business economic recovery program

Charlestown, Indiana - August 27th, 2020 - The City of Charlestown has been awarded a grant that will provide $250,000 in coronavirus relief funding for local small businesses from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs Community Development Block Grant fund. Charlestown businesses may qualify for up to $10,000 in working capital for payroll and other expenses that keep them operational and support local job retention. City officials anticipate awarding anywhere from 20-50 grants and will open the application process as early as next week to expedite local economic recovery.

The OCRA Covid-19 Response Program was created in March to address the impacts of COVID-19 on Indiana’s rural communities. Mayor Treva Hodges’ office has worked closely with state officials to remain responsive to the needs of the community during the pandemic, and in targeting this funding opportunity held a public hearing in July to solicit feedback from local small business owners. Their very personal testimony regarding the precarious impacts this crisis has had on their livelihoods served as a grave warning that the Charlestown business community was in desperate need of a lifeline.

Charlestown’s Copper Kettle has been a local mainstay since 2003 – but as customers tightened their spending, fear of exposure, and restrictions on capacity and service evolved - the restaurant’s pivot from business as usual to carry-out-only operations fell short of keeping them in the black. A well-loved business who has always sponsored Little League teams, or donated pre-game meals to the football team, struggled to come to terms with seeing packed drive-thru lines while being unable to make payroll. Melissa Wright, who helps run the family owned business told city officials how much the support of the community has always meant to their business, but that,“Nothing has ever hurt us the way COVID (19) has.”

Several other local restaurants echoed the same sentiments. Some are months behind on rent, while others have struggled to maintain supply and inventory or find employees - most are down 50% or more in sales as this pandemic settles in for the long-haul or are on the brink of permanent closure.

Businesses like the Cobblestone Hotel and K9K Solutions (dog boarding and training) have felt the decimating impacts COVID-19 has unleashed on the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. Canceled vacations, canceled conventions, a freeze on business travel, and crowd restrictions on events like Derby mean a loss of hotel stays and dog boarding revenue for these local operations – and furloughed employees. One Cobblestone employee struggling to receive Kentucky unemployment benefits while the hotel was closed was left without a safety net. The hotel’s investors made arrangements for her to stay on site as they hunkered down and waited to reopen. Operating at a tremendous loss, their commitment to Charlestown endured.

From handmade soaps to t-shirts or food trucks, smaller vendors struggle here as well as events like Charlestown’s Founder’s Day and other festivals are off the table this year and indefinitely. Local entertainers are out gigs, and in totality there is a trickle effect that ripples throughout the community.

“Charlestown’s small business owners have faced devastating economic hardship as they have coped with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m extremely thankful to Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and OCRA for this investment in Charlestown, as well as to our City and Redevelopment teams, the Charlestown Chamber of Commerce, and our partners at the Wheatley Group for working together to meet with small business owners, crunch the numbers, and do the legwork necessary to put together a winning grant proposal,” said Mayor Treva Hodges. “The ability to collaborate and move quickly, and to truly listen and respond to the needs of our small business community, is what has ultimately enabled us to offer financial assistance that will help these operations recoup some lost revenue and press on. These businesses are the backbone of our community and this is our opportunity to show up for them.”

Mayor Hodges also made a point to remind locals that though this funding will have a much-needed impact - our local businesses still need the community’s ongoing support to recover.

“While capacity restrictions have become less stringent and recreational businesses and restaurants begin to reopen, cabin fever may propel consumers out of town – but for every $100 spent in Charlestown, somewhere around $68 of that tends to stay here in Charlestown,” she said. “That money moves on to pay employees, it sponsors your child’s soccer team – these small businesses utilize other local businesses. Their ability to thrive here also makes a case for others who may have an eye on Charlestown.”

Hodges states that one concern she frequently hears as Mayor is that, ‘we need more restaurants and small businesses in town.’ She agrees. “Let’s show them the Charlestown way – that we can support what we have, especially when times are tough - and with room to grow. Charlestown is open for business.”

Local businesses are encouraged to visit www.ChooseCharlestown.com to submit a short interest form as soon as possible. From there they will receive an email notification, as well as program details when the application period opens.

A selection committee will review all grant applications and pass on recommendations to the Charlestown Redevelopment Commission for final approval and award. Special consideration will be given to local restaurants and retail as well as minority and veteran-owned businesses. Micro-enterprises comprised of 5 employees or less (including their proprietor), as well as businesses with up to 100 employees are eligible for consideration. Intake documentation as well as an agreement to a two-year reporting period are conditions of these awards. City representatives will be available after the application period opens to help facilitate the process and answer questions.

For more information or media inquiry, please contact the Charlestown Mayor’s Office by email to Media@CityofCharlestown.com or by phone at 502-631-2506.

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