Mason, Ohio, April 23, 2020– Small businesses in our community are hurting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As it becomes increasingly clear that government help is not expediently on the way, the non-profit Mason Deerfield Chamber Community Development Corporation (“MADE CDC”) is working to provide local businesses with some short-term relief. Last week, the MADE CDC created a crowd-sourced fund – the Pay It Forward MADE Fund -- to help small businesses in the Mason area affected by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.
The Pay it Forward MADE Fund will issue grants to small businesses in the Mason area negatively impacted by the recent economic downturn. In its first few days, the fund has raised over $15,000 from over 100 local contributors. Any business or individual can make a tax-deductible donation to the Fund by visiting – www.payitforwardmade.com.
Effective April 23, 2020, small businesses located in Mason or Deerfield can apply on-line at payitforwardmade.com/apply for a grant, provided they meet certain criteria. An anonymous selection committee, comprised of business and community leaders, will approve the grants. When a business receives a grant through the Pay It Forward MADE crowdfunding campaign, the business will use its best efforts to contribute to the Pay It Forward Fund in an amount equal to the grant it received once the business is back on its feet. The funds will be created and administered by the MADE CDC to assist area businesses in future economic emergencies. This is a fund separate from MADE CDC general operations. The grant applications window will close at 11:59pm on Monday, April 27, 2020.
MADE CDC Steps Up
In mid-March, the MADE CDC was asked to propose a program to Mason City Council where the City would donate $500,000 to a fund administered by the MADE CDC to make grants to Mason small business. The MADE CDC has been in on-going discussions with City leadership since then. The MADE CDC proposed the Mason Pay it Forward Program, a program where grants would be to local small businesses, which then be called on to “Pay it Forward” by donating goods or services in the amount of the grant it received to local, small businesses. A version of the program was proposed in Ordinance 2020-43. The ordinance was tabled by council on April 1, 2020. On April 13, 2020, Mason City Council amended 2020-43. The amendment reduced the proposed funding to $160,000 and changed the grant program to a gift card program. Amended 2020-43 required that all purchased gift cards be given to the City and instructed the City Manager to contract with the MADE CDC to administer the program. The Amendment had not previously been discussed with the MADE CDC, nor had Council previously asked the MADE CDC to propose a gift card program.
Because Amended 2020-43 did not instruct how the mechanics of the program would operate and because the City had not proposed any service agreement to the MADE CDC, on April 20, 2020, the MADE CDC proposed a gift card program – the Mason Loaves & Fishes Program – to Council. The non-traditional program would enable businesses to receive grants in the form of “gift cards” from the City. Selected businesses would then be asked to donate their goods and services back to the community at a later time. On April 21, 2020, the MADE CDC participated in a Council work session to describe why the MADE CDC recommended the program and how the program would operate. Discussions continue on how to execute this ordinance.
“Our small businesses are the backbone of our community and we have been saying for weeks that they need our immediate help,” said Sherry Taylor. “Our efforts are aimed toward assisting our local businesses by getting them over the hurdle of immediate funding challenges. We know the Pay It Forward fund speaks to the spirit of who our community is and that they will pay it forward to these small businesses for all that they have done to enhance our quality of life and place. We also believe our businesses will continue to take care of our community once they are back to viability. Every single dollar helps.”
“Obviously, the size of the fund and the grants will not be as large without the City pledging money to offer grants to local, small businesses. The City surplus being discussed comes from taxes paid by local businesses and residents. We’ve always viewed it as their funds,” said Scott K. Jones, an attorney at Graydon and board member of the MADE CDC. “It’s frustrating to be told by some on council that more information is needed about the program, which was proposed on March 30, 2020, while no one from the City has articulated what that additional information is and why it hasn’t been obtained. We felt like we can have a larger impact by being early and good than late and perfect.”
About the MADE CDC
The MADE CDC is a non-profit community development corporation serving the MADE region. The MADE CDC’s mission is to strengthen the MADE region in-to a more dynamic, healthy, and resilient place to live, learn, work and play. More information on the MADE CDC can be found at prosperitymade.org.