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MOUNT VERNON — Focusing on the long-term benefits of their investment, the Knox County Commissioners will put $100,000 into an emergency loan program designed to help businesses suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details of the program were announced yesterday.

“To us, this is vitally important,” said Commissioner Thom Collier. “If we can help businesses with small, interest-free loans to get them through a difficult period, we benefit in the long run: the county, city, villages, and all of our residents, including our employment base.”

The Area Development Foundation will administer the program through the county's Community Development Block Grant Revolving Loan Fund. Emergency loans can be up to $10,000 and are interest free. Businesses have between one to three years to repay the loan.

“I am blown away by the generosity of the commissioners' contribution to this fund,” said Jeff Gottke, president of the ADF. “I think they see it the same way the ADF does: as an investment in the quality of life for Knox County.”

“This is a great example of a public-private partnership to help fuel the economic engine,” said Collier.

The $100,000 will come from the county's general fund, probably the contingency line item. Collier acknowledged that it is a large sum in view of the county's lost sales and gas tax revenues due to Gov. Mike DeWine's stay-at-home order.

“It is a significant number that we are putting in,” he said. “To us, this is an investment that will pay dividends by keeping businesses afloat, particularly small businesses. We wanted to concentrate and focus on businesses who couldn't get help from the state or federal programs — there are a lot of those who don't qualify — as well as the medium-size entities having a hard time qualifying for other opportunities. We're trying to fill in that gap.”

“We understand the value of small businesses to the Knox County economy, and we want to assist them in remaining open,” said Commissioner Teresa Bemiller.

“This is a chance to give taxpayers' money back to them,” said Commissioner Bill Pursel.

Collier added that once the money goes into the revolving loan fund, it will return to the fund as loans are repaid.

“Those dollars will be there to use again for the same purpose, and they will continue to fuel the economic engine over a long period of time,” he said. “The fund grows and the money gives new opportunities to help other new, expanding businesses in Knox County.”

Collier also said that the commissioners wanted to make sure the program was sufficiently funded to draw down state dollars, something Gottke said is a possibility through matching funds from Jobs Ohio.

When Gottke announced the emergency program yesterday, the revolving loan fund had $100,000 in it. Along with the commissioners, others quickly responded.

“We've had donations from private individuals, business, philanthropic groups, the chamber, ADF, and governments,” said Gottke. “It runs the spectrum of donors to the fund.

“My goal was to get $200,000, and we are up to $300,000 already,” he continued. “That exceeds my expectations and goes to show the generosity of the Knox County community.”

The emergency loan program joins other funding streams established to alleviate the impact of COVID-19.

“We've got a fund to help individuals through the United Way, one to help nonprofits through the Knox County Foundation, and now one to help businesses through the emergency loan program,” said Gottke. “So we've covered all three sectors.”

Anyone wishing to contribute to the emergency loan program can contact Gottke at jeff@knoxadf.com.

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