BLANCHESTER, Ohio (FOX19) - Stan Dohan wonders if small businesses like his in Ohio will ever fully recover from the economic shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dohan, 49, of Cincinnati is the third generation to operate his family business, The Allen Company in Blanchester.
They employ about 100 employees and specialize in branded drinkware, hydration design and custom imprinting.
“Many Ohio businesses will need additional help from the state to recover. Many may not remain. Almost all businesses most certainly will not be able to retain the level of employment pre-COVID-19,” he said. “My 61-year business has a factory in a county with a grand total of eight recovered cases.”
His company is cleared to reopen, but Dohan says some of his workers are scared to come in now.
He said his employees are concerned, and rightly so, over a surge in COVID-19 cases expected sometime over the next two months, depending who you ask. He has concerns projected cases and deaths in Ohio may not reflect true numbers when this is all said and done.
They’re watching seemingly round-the-clock coronavirus updates from governors in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana; various and city leaders, and, nightly, President Donald Trump.
In the meantime, Dohan wants to know what the re-entry plan looks like for Ohio’s businesses and economy.
“CEOS need information to plan," he said.
As part of the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created for small business owners and their employees.
Through the program, nearly $350 billion has been allocated for immediate relief to small businesses that maintain payrolls during the crisis.
Administered through the Small Business Administration, the PPP provides 100% federally-guaranteed loans to small businesses.
These are one-time loans for payroll costs and overhead like rent and utilities for eight weeks.
The loans will be forgiven as long as they are used to cover qualified costs and maintain payroll through the current crisis. Current employee and compensation levels must also be maintained to qualify for loan forgiveness.
Dohan said so far, there has been a lot of confusion among banks and lenders over how the stimulus works. His company had had to submit for the PPP three times.
Plus, he said, "businesses in states like Ohio have also been in a competitive disadvantage compared to states that are and have been ‘open’ where we have competitors.”
On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Jon Husted announced at the state’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Columbus that a new office has been created to help Ohio’s small businesses survive the crisis.
“I get a lot of calls from citizens who want some certainty about the future. I’m asked when will things open back up. Please understand that this will not happen like flipping a switch," Husted said "It will be gradual, so businesses should think about how they should prepare.
“You want to think about how you will keep a safe environment because you don’t want an outbreak at your facility. If we stay on this track we will get through this faster, but these safe practices are going to be with us for a while. We’re working on plans that will help you navigate that. I want business owners to know that their voices have been heard.”
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, on Monday named 24 lawmakers to a bipartisan task force “Ohio 2020” that will research ways lawmakers can speed economic recovery from the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of our lives, including the economic well-being and future of Ohio families and businesses,” Householder said.
“What are the barriers to economic recovery? How do we help Ohio’s families and employers recover and emerge stronger than before? This is a critical time for Ohio’s future. I believe we can rebound from this challenge in a better position than anyone in the nation if we plan ahead and implement well.”
Householder appointed State Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, R-Mason, to chair the group. He represents the 54th Ohio House District, which includes portions of Warren County including Deerfield Township, Lebanon and Mason and part of Butler County.
“This public health crisis is having a dramatic financial impact on families and businesses throughout our region and across Ohio,” said Zeltwanger.
“It’s important that Ohio is doing everything it can to lay the foundation for economic renewal, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure we’re prepared for the future.”
The panel will listen to guests at each meeting from the business, manufacturing, retail, wholesale, services and recreational sectors to discuss their experience and brainstorm ways to rebound Ohio’s job market “once COVID-19 has run its course,” reads a news release from Householder’s office.
He told FOX19 NOW Tuesday he would encourage business owners with concerns like Dohan to contact Zeltwanger and schedule a time to discuss his concerns with the task force.
“That’s why I formed it - to solve problems,” Householder said.
The task force began meeting remotely on Monday, but it was private, Zeltwanger said in a news release.
“Today’s meeting is organizational in nature and the task force isn’t a decision-making body subject to open meetings laws. Today’s meeting will not be open to the public," the release states.
Another local state representative is on the task force, George Lang, R-West Chester Township.
“We must continue to take appropriate measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. We must also work tirelessly to alleviate the hardships being faced by Ohio’s families and businesses, and eventually restart our economy.”