Criteria block some Akron small businesses from getting ARPA grants

Some early programs designed to help small Akron businesses that survived the pandemic fell short of helping everyone who raised their hands for assistance.

More than 7 in 10 businesses that applied for small business grants funded with American Rescue Plan Act federal stimulus dollars were deemed ineligible for help.

Some small businesses still operating below capacity due to short staffing, supply issues, inflation and COVID-19 have watched with bewilderment as yoga studios, tattoo shops and other restaurants literally next door or across the street collect $10,000 each from the city. 

Matthew Ulichney, co-owner of the Square Scullery in Akron, discusses the $10,000 grant he didn’t receive after applying for federal COVID-19 relief funds.

On the north side of Market Street in Highland Square, the owners of Square Scullery in Highland Square could have paid their rent for a year or their staff for two months with a $10,000 grant. 

“It would be very substantial,” said Matthew Ulichney, who co-owns the tiny restaurant in the back of an American Legion Hall with his wife, Heather. 

The couple started with a food truck and opened the modest, three-table dining room with bar seating just before the pandemic hit, adding an outdoor patio a few months later. 

Square Scullery is located at the back of the Wendell L. Willkie American Legion Post 19 in Akron's Highland Square.

Across Market Street, a row of neighboring businesses applied for and received several of the $10,000 grants from the city’s $1 million, ARPA-funded Small Business Relief Grant Program.

Square Scullery’s looked at the eligibility map provided by the city and knew they’d be denied, “just because we’re on the wrong side of the street.”

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