Local community grants bridge the revenue gap for neighborhood businesses

Small businesses are the heart of neighborhoods, but the COVID-19 pandemic has closed many of them, at least temporarily, and caused cash flow problems that could threaten their existence.


Recognizing this, several Northern Kentucky communities have stepped up to provide grants to small firms to help get through the crisis.

Fort Mitchell, Covington, Newport, and Fort Thomas are among the local governments making grants available to homegrown businesses in their towns.

For business owners like Ted Herzog, owner of Herzog Jewelers in Fort Mitchell, the grant will help pay the bills while the store is closed by state order.

“It will help us pay overhead and expenses since we’ve been closed and had no revenue coming in for several weeks,” Herzog says.

Working with Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corp. (Tri-ED), the city of Fort Mitchell awarded $2,500 grants to 34 businesses in the city through the Fort Mitchell Small Business Emergency Grant Program.


“Our goal is to help our small businesses stay in business by getting them these funds quickly,” said Fort Mitchell Mayor Jude Hehman.


Among the businesses receiving grants are Biggby Coffee, Braxton Brewing, Grandview Tavern, and Ralice Custom Framing and Fine Art.


In Covington, an emergency program to help small businesses pay rent or mortgages during the COVID-19 pandemic was created by executive order by the city to help protect jobs during the state-ordered shutdown.


Originally, the program was limited to restaurants, bars, and other hospitality businesses, but personal service companies, gyms, and others were included Economic Development Director Tom West says.

Marilyn Baker, who owns Yankee Doodle Deli, was one of Covington’s applicants. Her company

sells flavored gourmet pretzels - called Zels - to wholesalers and retailers out of its location on Scott Boulevard. Sales plummeted when many of her large accounts closed, so she pivoted her marketing to online sales.


Covington set aside $200,000 for the program out of its economic development fund.


“We’re hoping that the city’s assistance program - in addition to similar grants and loans being offered on the federal level - provide a type of life support to help keep our beloved restaurants, retailers, bars, and services going until they get the OK to reopen,” West says.


Among the applications approved are ones for Riverside Korean restaurant, Zola Pub and Grill, and Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar.


Newport’s program is also intended to assist retail businesses, including businesses that serve food. Eligible businesses may receive monthly payment for four months of $500 to be used for rent, lease, or mortgage payments during the mandated closure.

The Fort Thomas program is also intended to help cover fixed costs such as rent, mortgages, utilities, and insurance.

Continued COVID-19 coverage has been supported by a grant from the Facebook Journalism Project, a program run in partnership with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and Local Media Association.



Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is the managing editor of NKY Thrives, an award-winning journalist, and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.