OCRA awards Huntington $250,000 grant

HUNTINGTON – A $250,000 grant the city of Huntington was awarded Thursday will allow it to provide interest-free small business loans to retain low-to-moderate income jobs.

The  money comes from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) following an executive order Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued in March allowing it to redirect federal Community Development Block Grant funds to assist with COVID-19 needs.

The city will immediately begin a planning phase to structure its existing revolving loan program around OCRA guidelines. Once completed, the city will present a proposal to the Huntington City Council and the Board of Public Works & Safety for approval.

“The city will quickly develop the loan program and begin accepting applications so we can get that money to the businesses in our community that need it,” Bryn Keplinger, the city’s director of Community Development and Redevelopment, said.

Huntington received the maximum amount of $250,000. Region 3-A, a nonprofit development and regional planning commission based in Kendallville, assisted the city in its OCRA application.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and OCRA announced at a press conference Thursday that 49 Hoosier communities will receive more than $8.7 million dollars in federal funding through the new COVID-19 Response Program.

The same program awarded another 13 Indiana communities with more than $1.96 million on April 22.

“Our rural communities are feeling the effects of COVID-19 and need immediate support to ensure that critical services and supplies as well as economic recovery resources are available," Jodi Golden, OCRA executive director, said in a press release.

 Communities are required to use the funding to:

  • Expand or alter existing medical facilities to help in the increased patient load due to COVID-19.
  • Provide fixed or mobile COVID-19 testing.
  • Expand food pantry services.
  • Provide grants or loans to small businesses to help retain LMI jobs.

In Huntington, community economic development leaders held a conference call with lenders from local financial institutions to identify where unmet needs exist outside of already deployed local, state and federal resources, Keplinger said.

The Huntington County Chamber of Commerce also conducted an informal membership survey to pinpoint local gaps in resources presented by the COVID-19 emergency.

Based on these conversations and responses, the city determined to help retain LMI jobs by deploying critical financial resources to small businesses through interest-free loans. As loans are repaid those funds can then be made available to other businesses in need.

“The funding Huntington was awarded today by OCRA will provide immediate assistance to our community, and we see it becoming a long-term resource to continue providing assistance to our local businesses,” Mayor Strick said Thursday.

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