Saturday, March 21st, 2020

Changes due to virus threat

From staff reports

ATLANTA - The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Ohio small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19), SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza announced on Friday.

SBA acted under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, which was recently signed by President Donald Trump, to declare a disaster following a request received from Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday.

The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in Ohio.

"Small businesses, private nonprofit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of COVID-19 since Jan. 31, 2020, may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred," Carranza said.

Eligibility is based on the financial impact of COVID-19. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for private nonprofit organizations is 2.75%. SBA offers loans with long-term repayments to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA's Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call 800-877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The deadline to apply is Dec. 21.

For more information about available SBA resources and services, visit SBA.gov/coronavirus.

First Financial Bank

First Financial Bank has announced two initiatives to support clients and communities affected by coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic, including a series of wide-ranging client relief programs and a pledge of $1 million for community support from the First Financial Foundation.

First Financial's Hardship Relief Program has been launched to help consumers, small businesses, and commercial clients experiencing adverse economic effects. Effective immediately, affected clients may request to defer payments up to 90 days on installment and auto loans, mortgage loans, home equity loans and credit cards, without impacting their credit report or incurring late fees during the deferral period.

The bank is also suspending vehicle repossessions and will not initiate foreclosure actions for residential properties for the next 60 days.

First Financial is taking similar steps to help businesses. Clients with business loans may qualify for loan modification programs and may make interest-only payments or defer payments up to 90 days without incurring late fees. Additionally, First Financial relationship managers are available to help businesses take advantage of the U.S. Small Business Administration Direct Loan Program that recently launched. Commercial clients can work one-on-one with Relationship Managers to assess needs and take advantage of relief solutions, such as interest-only payments or deferred payments for up to 90 days.

Clients who are experiencing hardship can take advantage of these relief programs by calling a relationship manager to discuss options. A full list of phone numbers is available online at bankatfirst.com and through the First Financial mobile app. Clients can call the new First Financial Coronavirus Hotline toll free at 844-897-9563, available 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday. First Financial has also established a Coronavirus Customer Hardship Assistance Form, which can be accessed at bankatfirst.com.

USDA Rural Development

U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Bette Brand announced that USDA Rural Development is implementing remote operational status effective immediately. Rural Development leadership and managers will continue to provide customer service while following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's direction for social distancing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, visit rd.usda.gov.

Arts Place

All Arts Place facilities are closed to the public. Arts Place operates the Auglaize/Mercer Center in St. Marys, the Blackford County Arts Center in Hartford City, Indiana, and its center in Portland, Indiana. Facilities are tentatively scheduled to reopen on April 1. Plans are being made for online and virtual programming. A pilot effort to provide online video chat instruction also began earlier this week, which Arts Place hopes to implement more fully by month's end.

Arts Place staff will continue to be available by calling 260-726-4809 or by email. For more information, visit artsland.org.

St. Marys Community Public Library

The St. Marys Community Public Library announces its genealogy program, Ancestry Library Edition, is available remotely to all Ohio library cardholders through April, courtesy of ProQuest and its partner Ancestry. Access to Ancestry Library is provided by Libraries Connect Ohio. Patrons can visit the library website at stmarys.lib.oh.us and look for the library's research databases or go directly to ohioweblibrary.org/db/ancestry. They can enter their Ohio public library card number to access Ancestry Library.

The library also is offering the free Ohio Governor's Imagination Library, which is in partnership with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Officials are working to send every child in Ohio from birth to age 5 a new book each month. No library card is necessary to sign up for this program.

The library remains closed until April 6, but staff hope to remain available to answer reference questions from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday at 419-394-7471 or stmaryshelp@seolibraries.org. The library is online at stmarys.lib.oh.us and on Facebook.

PUCO

COLUMBUS - The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has issued an order directing Ohio's electric, natural gas, water and wastewater distribution utilities to suspend any in-person meter reading activities and any other non-essential work that would create unnecessary social contact.

Utility customers who have questions or concerns regarding their utility service are encouraged to contact the PUCO online at PUCO.ohio.gov/contact-us.

City of Celina

The city of Celina will use the Mercer County District Library's virtual teleconference room to hold Monday's committee of the whole meeting at 6:30 p.m. and regular council meeting at 7 p.m. The conference will be streamed to the public via Facebook Live on the City of Celina's Facebook page.

Celina City Schools

Celina City Schools officials are making changes to the meal distribution program, according to a news release. The moves are aimed at reducing the chances for exposure to others and to adhere to social distancing recommendations.

Beginning Monday, school officials will pass out breakfast and lunch grab-and-go bags only from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays each student will receive two breakfasts and two lunches. On Thursdays each student will receive three breakfasts and three lunches.

The meals will be distributed at Celina High School, Celina Intermediate School, Michel Tire and Meadowview Apartments parking lots, former Peterman garage parking lot at Windy Point and State Route 219, I.C. Schools parking lot, Nazarene Church on Fairground Road, American Legion on State Route 703 and Williamsburg Apartments.

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