Mayor: Possible small business grant could help struggling Jasper businesses

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JASPER, Ind. (WEHT) — Nearly a year after the first reported cases of COVID-19 were reported in the Tri-State, local communities are still trying to help small businesses get back on their feet.

Officials in Dubois County say help may be right around the corner. New state funding may be on the way, and it’s something Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide said will help those small businesses struggling in the city.

“We have applied just recently for a grant that has been made available for small businesses here in the area, that’s in the city of Jasper and we are hoping to qualify and be awarded the $250,000 grant to small businesses in need,” Mayor Vonderheide said. 

The grant comes through Indiana’s Office Of Community and Rural Affairs – administered by Lt. Governor and Tri-State native Suzanne Crouch. 

Mayor Vonderheide said small businesses in Jasper have been hit particularly hard since the pandemic began. 

“There are many businesses just hanging on and hoping for some relief in order to continue,” Mayor Vonderheide said. “People are going to look for what’s my opportunity in the future, and so we are getting some investments as well some startups, so that’s the positive side of it, but you know there’s existing businesses here that are very very important to our future.”

For small business owners like Margie Vaught, business at her party shop ‘Occasions of Jasper’ has been down since early 2020. 

Vaught, who’s also president of Jasper’s Downtown Business Association said she had some of the best sales during Christmas 2019, but then the pandemic came barreling in by March of 2020. 

“90 percent of us on this square here in Jasper are prepared to do curbside if you need, some will even deliver,” Vaught said. “A lot are doing online ordering they haven’t done before. We have had to dip into our retirement money and things like that to help us get through the times.”

Those small businesses still on Jasper’s downtown square are among the hardest hit and are now waiting for a bailout and brighter days ahead.

“I know to some extent people are getting tired of hearing support your small business, or support your local restaurants, but it really is critical to us, and like we have all said before, we are the people that are there more often than not who donate to fundraisers in the community, who donate to school clubs and sports teams and all of that,” Vaught said. “We’re the ones who are really there supporting you and and if we go away that ripple effect is far bigger than if our businesses close, because it will affect all of those not for profits who count on us for some assistance, it goes beyond the business.” 

Mayor Vonderheide said if approved – those new funds from the small business grant could be available in the next couple of months.

(This story was originally published on January 21, 2021)

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