DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Relief is coming for some Dayton small businesses. Dayton city commissioners approved $7 million to create a loan program for new and existing businesses.

The funds are for first-floor businesses like the shops, restaurants, and art galleries that fill, or could one day fill, the storefronts in Dayton.

“This is about, you know, economic development and helping to create wealth or generate wealth in our community,” Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said.

The Dayton City Commission approved the creation of the First Floor Fund with the goal to grow the local economy and support women and minority-owned businesses.

“The minority community, as well as women-owned businesses, were especially hit in during COVID, and so this is a way for us to bring extra support,” Dickstein said.

The First floor Fund will lend qualifying business owners repayable and forgivable loans up to 70% of the project costs, covering new machinery, renovations and other needs.

The funding comes through the Dayton Recovery Plan, which was created to spend the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars.

For the business owners who could receive this money, it could have a big impact on their small businesses.

Varsity House art gallery and Choice Juice Boxx pressed juice bar opened in the St. Clair Lofts just before the 2020 shutdown.

“To be honest we’ve put all the skin in the game, meaning we’ve put all of our funds in this business,” Choice Juice Boxx Owner Donna Wilson said.

Wilson, who owns the business alongside her daughter and son, said they didn’t receive any aid during the pandemic. These loans have the potential to help them purchase a bigger juice press, new refrigerator and blender.

“This opportunity actually is going to help us scale because we’re at that moment where it’s time for us to scale up,” Wilson said.

CityWide Development will administer and oversee the entire loan process.

“Hopefully this gives these business owners a different alternative access to capital that is more flexible than other financing options out there,” CityWide President Dan Kane said.

CityWide will start accepting applications by mid-October. All applications will be reviewed by a five member committee of business owners.