When you spend a lifetime building your small business enterprise into something to behold, terror runs deep when you are forced to close down operations for extended periods of time. Fortunately, for more than 11,300 small businesses and nonprofits across Michigan the Small Business Restart Grant Program has provided a critical lifeline.
Those enterprises have been awarded $69 million in grants by local economic development organizations as of September 10, 2020 through the Michigan Small Business Restart Grant Program, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The program was launched to provide relief for small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer says, “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. I know it hasn’t been easy, which is why we’re working around the clock to provide support for our small business owners.” She goes on to say, “The Michigan Small Business Restart Program is providing much-needed relief to those small businesses and nonprofits hardest hit by the impact of COVID-19 as they work to recover from the pandemic,” and adds, “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.”
Approved in July, the Michigan Small Business Restart Program allocated $100 million of federal CARES Act funding to provide support to Michigan’s small businesses and nonprofits that are reopening and have experienced a loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The funding was distributed across 15 local or nonprofit economic development organizations (EDOs) covering all 83 counties in the state for grants up to $20,000 to support certain small businesses and nonprofits that have realized a significant financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of September 10, $69 million in grants have been awarded, with all remaining grants to be awarded by September 30, 2020 and reported by mid-October. At least 72,950 jobs have been retained for Michigan workers through these initial grant awards. Of the businesses to receive an award to date, 3,030 reported as minority-owned, 4,365 reported as woman-owned, and 550 reported as veteran-owned, with some businesses selecting multiple categories. At least 30-percent of the funds awarded under the program were required to be provided to women-owned, minority-owned or veteran-owned eligible businesses, and all EDOs are on track to meet, or exceed, this requirement in the awards being made.
Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Mark A. Burton says, “The Michigan Small Business Restart Program is providing a significant opportunity to address immediate needs of small businesses and nonprofits as they work to recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” and adds, “We are proud to work with our economic development partners to deliver these vital financial resources and create a path toward economic recovery for small businesses throughout Michigan.”
One such partner in our region has been Southwest Michigan First, where CEO and Senior Partner Ron Kitchens says he cannot remember a time that funding was more critically needed in his career. Kitchens tells us, “The pandemic has intensified the importance of jobs to local economies, peoples’ livelihoods and their sense of well-being. Only by protecting our small businesses can we ensure the ability of all to grow and prosper.” He notes, “The State of Michigan and Michigan Economic Development Corporation have done an excellent job of developing a suite of financial assistance options, like the Michigan Small Business Restart Program, to keep the doors of small businesses open. We thank everyone who participated in this process. The impact we are having could not have been made without our partners at the MEDC and MSF, other Southwest Michigan EDOs, and in particular, Governor Whitmer.”
Kitchens talked about the people who got the grants, saying, “We congratulate the recipients receiving allocations from this program. At Southwest Michigan First, we believe that the greatest force for change is a job, and we thank today’s recipients for keeping as many people employed as possible during this unprecedented time. We truly wish we could have supported all requests, but demand outnumbered our available pool of money 6:1,” and concludes, “But there’s more that can be done—that everyone can do. We all must shop and eat local during this time and support these small businesses that make our region a remarkable place in which to live and work.”
The grants under the Michigan Small Business Restart Program may be used as working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses or other similar expenses.
Facial spa Skin Bar VII of Detroit was awarded a grant through the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and the funds have helped the newly-opened business weather the COVID-19 pandemic and put them in a position to hire more employees in the future, according to owner Sevyn Jones, who says, “Skin Bar VII opened late last year on Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion. We were just hitting our stride when the COVID-19 crisis hit. We have been blessed to received funding from both relief grant programs. As a result, we are open today both online and at our store on Livernois practicing newly implemented cleaning, health and safety regulations. As our customer traffic increases, we are looking to hire additional employees as we adjust to the new normal.”
To qualify for grant support, businesses had to meet the following criteria, based on statutory requirements for the program:
- Is a business or nonprofit with fewer than 50 employees that can demonstrate it is affected by the COVID-19 emergency
- Needs working capital to support eligible expenses
- Demonstrates an income loss as a result of the COVID-19 emergency
Selected EDOs were responsible for reviewing applications of small businesses in their region and ultimately determining grant awards through the program. Each EDO established a review committee that could include representatives from local workforce agencies, local SBDC representatives, business and nonprofit leaders, among others. The full list of EDOs administering Michigan Small Business Restart grants, the counties they served, and the number of businesses supported is below.
Another EDO in the region is Lakeshore Advantage, where President Jennifer Owens says, “We are grateful to the MEDC and all of our state and federal legislative leaders for making this funding a priority.” She reports, “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.”
To see the full list of businesses that were awarded Restart grants as of September 10, 2020, visit this link: restart-grants
Paint a Pot, a paint-your-own pottery shop in Holland, was awarded a $20,000 grant, and owner Kerri DeVries said the funds could not have come at a better time, “Our local pottery shop was hit hard by spring shutdowns brought on by COVID-19. The Michigan Restart Grant is exactly what our company needed to jump-start our recovery. This funding will allow us to serve more customers by extending our hours, adding staff, and utilizing more space in our building – just in time for our busy holiday season.”
The Michigan Small Business Restart Program is modeled after the Michigan Small Business Relief Program, approved on March 19 by the Michigan Strategic Fund to support small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Michigan Small Business Relief Program consisted of a total of $20 million aimed at supporting businesses in need of immediate relief. The program included $10 million that was distributed to 15 local EDOs to provide grants up to $10,000 to certain small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Additionally, the program authorized $10 million for small business loans of not less than $50,000 and not more than $100,000 to eligible borrowers impacted by COVID-19 that were not able to seek alternative, suitable financing.
Prior to today’s announcement, the MEDC had launched 19 COVID-19 relief and recovery programs expected to support up to 10,000 businesses in the state and helping to retain more than 21,000 jobs across all 83 counties. To learn more about MEDC’s COVID-19 response programs and the impact they are having on economic recovery efforts, you can visit this link: http://michiganbusiness.org/covid19response Other resources for economic reopening efforts as well as businesses across Michigan struggling with economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 virus can be found online at michiganbusiness.org/covid19.