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Published in Small Business

$265K in COVID-19 aid heading to GR small businesses in ‘neighborhoods of focus’

BY Monday, July 12, 2021 02:37pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Eligible small businesses located on the west and south sides of Grand Rapids can soon apply for grants of up to $10,000 to help mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The city of Grand Rapids is using $265,000 it received through the federal CARES Act to fund the COVID Adaptation Program. Grants will be awarded to eligible businesses on a first-come, first-served basis, said Grand Rapids Economic Development Director Jeremiah Gracia. The application window opens at 8 a.m. on July 19.

“Part of the reason for this is to help businesses position themselves after the success of things like outdoor seating and no-contact purchases, not only for the rest of this summer but we anticipate a common theme after the pandemic,” Gracia said.

The grants can be used for a variety of expenses, including technology, furniture, fixtures and equipment purchases such as personal protection equipment. Costs must have been incurred after March 1, 2020, and there is no matching requirement for the grant. 

Businesses can also apply for funding to help offset the cost of equipment that helps them adapt business operations as a result of the pandemic, Gracia said.

“Business owners will be making those decisions based on things they have learned in their time operating over the past 16 months,” Gracia said. 

The funding could also help offset costs for equipment including air purification systems or software to change a business’ point of sale system to reduce customer contact.

The city previously provided grants of up to $5,000 to small businesses for working capital, which includes rent, utilities and payroll. Businesses that received those grants are eligible to apply for the COVID Adaptation Program if they are located in the city’s designated “Neighborhoods of Focus” and meet other eligibility criteria. 

The city has identified 17 census tracts located on the west and south sides of Grand Rapids as Neighborhoods of Focus. Systemic and historic inequities have caused residents in these neighborhoods to experience the most disparate outcomes in income, education opportunities, home ownership and wealth accumulation compared to other Grand Rapids census tracts, Gracia said.

The Neighborhoods of Focus represent 36 percent of the city’s total 47 census tracts. 

Eligible businesses must have between one and 25 employees and have been in operation since at least March 1, 2021. The for-profit companies must also be located in a Neighborhood of Focus and can demonstrate a loss of revenue during the pandemic. The businesses also must comply with local state and federal laws, which excludes cannabis-related businesses from applying.

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