MOUNT VERNON — Thus far, 11 small businesses across Knox County impacted by COVID-19 have received Emergency Business Loans of $10,000 each, with Jeff Gottke, president of the Area Development Foundation, hoping there may be as many as 19 more offered in the next few months.

The checks are issued by the Knox County auditor, after an approximately one-week process, Gottke said. A Loan Committee vetted the applicants, and approved the loans which were then sent on to the Ohio Development Services Agency for approval. Final authorization for the release of funds came from the Knox County Commissioners.

The 11 small businesses, nearly all with fewer than 20 employees, can spend the no-interest loans — considered working capital loans for operating costs — on payroll, utilities, rent and inventory needs, according to Gottke. There is a three-year payback period, with loan payments initially deferred for 90 days. They will be made monthly.

There has been an average of three applications weekly over the past month. Gottke said the range of Knox County small businesses helped to date include restaurants, salons, hospitality ventures, food trucks, manufacturers and personal trainers. Businesses are being helped with the loans in communities across the county, including Mount Vernon, Fredericktown, Gambier, Danville and Howard.

Gottke said the loans have helped the 11 businesses, which range from having 1 to 12.5 jobs retained through the program, keep a total of 46.5 jobs on their payrolls. In nearly all cases, the loans helped employers avert having to lay employees off, he noted. The four main loan criteria required employers to retain jobs for low- to moderate-income employees. They also had to demonstrate that their businesses were stable before the COVID-19 pandemic started shutting down Ohio businesses in March, and show both an ability to cut operating costs as needed and to repay their loans.

The emergency loans were announced about a month ago, as part of a revolving loan fund intended to help new businesses start and existing ones to expand. The fund had about $100,000 in it at the time, Gottke said Friday. Seeking to help businesses most impacted by the coronavirus, including those suffering from temporary closures, Knox County Commissioners soon contributed $100,000 toward the revolving loans. Mount Vernon City Council followed with $10,000, and other entities such as ADF, the Knox County Chamber of Commerce and other entities have made contributions, with the fund now totaling about $300,000.

Gottke said one of the best features of the Emergency Business Loans is that because they are part of a revolving fund, the repaid loans from businesses go back into the fund to help more Knox County businesses in the future. As things resume to normal in the future, the loans would usually go toward helping new businesses start and existing ones to expand.

Those who have contributed to the fund see it not just as a way of helping small businesses impacted by the coronavirus to get back on their feet, but to see the possibility of expanded job creation through a fund that has tripled in size from $100,000 available to $300,000.

“They see it as an investment,” Gottke said.

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Larry Di Giovanni: 740-397-5333 or larry@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews