JumpStart UA helps small businesses reward workers in Upper Arlington

Two months after initiating a program to reward local small-business employees for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has awarded $9,400 in bonuses.

On Aug. 30, Upper Arlington City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to establish JumpStart UA.

Leal Boutique sales associate Marisa Cinson (left) shows sweaters to Anna Johnson on Dec. 1 at the shop. Cinson recently received a $300 bonus through a JumpStart UA program in which the city of Upper Arlington is using federal funds to help small businesses thank and retain employees.

Through the program, the city earmarked up to $300,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to help local small businesses reward workers who were employed for at least six months and made less than $20 per hour during the pandemic.

The funds were not available to businesses where most employees worked from their homes. National restaurant and retail chains also were ineligible.

JumpStart UA provided a two-for-one match, meaning the city gives $2 for every $1 a business spent on the bonuses. Because the maximum the city will spend per employee is $200, local workers could receive up to a $300 bonus.

The money also was designed to help businesses with fewer than 30 employees retain staff.

While $9,400 had been awarded as of Nov. 30, Joe Henderson, Upper Arlington economic development director, said a total of $17,400 in bonuses have been approved.

"Fourteen businesses are in some level of review for the JumpStart UA program," Henderson said. "Five businesses have been fully reimbursed for giving their employees a JumpStart UA retention grant. A total of nine have been approved. Five others are still in some aspect of review."

Henderson said city officials haven't decided when they might set a deadline for businesses to apply for the funding.

He said he's pleased with the early response to the program, noting that some of the businesses that have applied have as few as three employees.

"We didn't know what to expect," Henderson said. "I think, to me, the amount we have is great. A lot of these businesses don't have large staffs. Those that needed the help were very appreciative."

Leal Boutique, 2128 Arlington Ave., is one of the businesses taking advantage of the program.

The designer fashion store has been on the Mallway for 28 years and three of its employees received $300 bonuses, owner Connie Leal Ballinger said.

"I thought it was really nice," she said. "It wasn't going to change anybody's life, but it was a way to make employees feel valuable.

"It would have been hard to stay open if I didn't have employee help."

Marisa Cinson, a Leal Boutique sales associate, said she was surprised to receive the bonus, which she said came at a perfect time.

"I was very grateful and very appreciative," she said. "I wasn't expecting the little city of Upper Arlington to be so thoughtful and generous."

The Original Goodie Shop, which has operated at 2116 Tremont Center since 1955, also handed out bonuses through JumpStart UA.

Emilie Smith, co-owner and manager of the shop, said 15 of her employees received $300 bonuses in mid-November.

"We just gave everyone the maximum," she said. "It was awesome. Our employees were very excited about it, and it was a nice perk right before Christmas."

Ballinger said the program was a positive way for the city to show its concern and appreciation for local businesses, many of which make up the fabric of Upper Arlington.

"I think it's good the city makes the effort to partner with small businesses," she said. "I think that small businesses make every community interesting and unique."



This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: JumpStart UA helps small businesses reward workers in Upper Arlington