Cuyahoga County Adds $2 Million To Coronavirus Small Businesses Relief Fund

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announces additional funds have been given to small business relief fund and to expand COVID-19 testing. [CCBH]

More money is available to help local small businesses and to provide more testing for the coronavirus in hot spots, Cuyahoga County officials announced Friday.

County Executive Armond Budish said $2 million has been added to the Small Business Stabilization Fund, which was set up last month and depleted in a matter of days.

“With this new round, we anticipate being able to help 600 more businesses throughout our county with grants from $25,00 to $5,000,” Budish said.

Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees can apply for the grants through the website or by calling the county’s business resource center at (216) 452-9714.

“We’ll be giving special preference to business owners with a personal residence in Cuyahoga County and businesses in low-to-moderate income census tracts,” Budish said.

The county awarded grants to some 200 businesses during the first round of funding, he said at the weekly county COVID-19 briefing.

“I know that these are very difficult times. We want to do as much as we can to help,” he said.

Budish also announced Cuyahoga County is committing $5 million to help the board of health purchase 30,000 COVID-19 tests. 

The funds will help scale up testing in the county, but will be focused in specific congregate settings such as homeless shelters, adult homes for those with developmental disabilities, and other neighborhood sites, he said.

County health officials and MetroHealth are working together to bring mobile testing to these sites.

“The idea here is that if you have staff in congregate setting facilities that then become exposed and COVID positive. They then potentially circulate out into the community and create new chains of transmission that cause further cases and further fatalities,” said Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan. “This is what we are trying to prevent.”

There is still a national shortage of testing supplies, county officials said Friday, so resources are not available to create a specific testing program for at-risk racial groups, such as African Americans.

County, state and national data shows African Americans have been disproportionally impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ohio Department of Health recently revised its testing criteria, which doctors and hospitals use to determine who can be tested. Under the new guidelines, race can be considered as a factor for testing.

“We are following the Ohio Department of Health testing guidelines which do focus on people of color, but also recognize that they do need to have symptoms at this time,” said Dr. Heidi Gullett, county medical director.

Individual doctors and other providers have the discretion to consider race as a factor when accessing patients to determine if they need testing, Gullett said.

In Summit County, public health officials have said they face the same barriers in expanding testing to some vulnerable groups.

Limited testing capabilities prevent expanding testing outside hospitals, healthcare workers, and congregate settings at this time, Summit County Public Health officials told ideastream in an email.

“As the number of tests increases over the next few weeks, SCPH is already planning with the county and hospital systems to offer testing to our most vulnerable populations including racial and ethnic minorities with underlying illness,” the email said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created some confusion on the issue this week, first changing guidelines on May 3 to allow those in minority groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19 to be tested even if a potential patient is not displaying symptoms.

Days later, the CDC reversed course, saying that African Americans exposed to the virus could not get tested unless they were exhibiting symptoms.

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