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Published in Small Business

State COVID-19 relief grants reach thousands of West Michigan small businesses

BY Tuesday, September 29, 2020 01:42pm

Thousands of small businesses across West and Southwest Michigan have received grant funding from a state COVID-19 relief program.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. announced the first round of statewide recipients Tuesday, comprising $69 million of the $100 million Small Business Restart Program.

Lakeshore Advantage President Jennifer Owens COURTESY PHOTO

“Over the past six months, small business owners who have spent their entire lives building their businesses have made incredible sacrifices to protect their communities and our brave frontline workers from COVID-19,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. 

The program was approved in July and is supported by federal CARES Act funding.

“This program puts federal funding to work for Michigan’s small businesses and builds on additional COVID-19 business relief efforts offered by the MEDC to create a strong foundation for Michigan’s long-term economic recovery,” Whitmer added.

The state issued the funding to 15 economic development organizations that selected qualifying small businesses from a pool of applicants. Grants of up to $20,000 were available for small businesses and nonprofits with up to 50 employees that were affected by the pandemic and showed the funding would help retain employees. 

Lakeshore Advantage, The Right Place Inc. and Southwest Michigan First distributed more than $10 million to 2,919 businesses. The grants can be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, utilities or rent or mortgage payments.

“We are grateful to the MEDC and all of our state and federal legislative leaders for making this funding a priority,” Lakeshore Advantage President Jennifer Owens said in a statement. “There are thousands of small businesses and nonprofits here on the lakeshore that are the heartbeat of our communities. While the demand is very high and there are limited funds, this grant provided hundreds of businesses with critical working capital needed to remain viable, to adapt and to thrive despite the challenges of this new COVID-19 reality.”

More than 11,300 businesses statewide have received grant funding, which allowed them to retain nearly 73,000 jobs, according to the state.

The MEDC reports that more than a quarter of the grants went to minority-owned businesses, while 4,365 went to woman-owned and 550 to veteran-owned businesses. The program required that at least 30 percent of the funds went to minority-, woman- or veteran-owned companies.

The $69 million in grants had been distributed by Sept. 10, while the remaining $31 million will be awarded by Sept. 30. The program is modeled off the state’s $20 million Small Business Relief Program, which was created by the Michigan Strategic Fund in late March.

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