More Than 430 Tri-County Businesses Granted MI Restart Dollars for COVID Relief

Remember that Michigan Small Business Restart Grant Program rolled out at the height of the pandemic shutdown, offering to help businesses to stay alive at the most critical juncture in their year? Well, the numbers are out today, and Michigan allocated nearly $100-million to businesses all across the state through that program including 432 small business enterprises in the Tri-County region of Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Counties.

That critical relief totaling nearly $100 million went to more than 14,000 small businesses across the state according to an announcement from Governor Gretchen Whitmer today.

The governor says, “Families across the state depend on small businesses for their livelihood, and these grants, combined with additional COVID-19 business relief efforts offered by the MEDC, have helped to create a strong foundation for Michigan’s long-term economic recovery.” She adds, “By putting federal funding to work for Michigan’s small businesses and additional COVID-19 relief efforts, we have made a real impact on our families and our communities. Of course, our work is not done. We still need the President and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to work across the aisle on a bipartisan recovery package that will provide support for our families, frontline workers, and small businesses. I will continue working with all of our partners, both at the federal and the state level, to get this done for our small business owners.”

Today’s announcement brings the total amount awarded through the program to $95.6 million, up from $69 million announced at the end of September. A total of 5-percent of overall funding for the program was able to go toward administrative costs of the EDOs administering the grants.

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A total of 258 small businesses in Berrien County each received $5,000 under that program, while 134 businesses were helped in Van Buren County, and another 40 in Cass County.

Approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund back 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 were reopening and had 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) including Southwest Michigan First who worked with Cornerstone Alliance and Market Van Buren in our region. The statewide EDO system covers all 83 counties in the state. Grants of up to $20,000 to support certain small businesses and nonprofits that realized a significant financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic were awarded, although all of those reported in our region were for $5,000 each.

Of the businesses that received grants, 4,617 reported as minority-owned, 6,314 reported as woman-owned, and 743 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 have met, or exceeded, that requirement in the awards being made.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Mark A. Burton tells us, “The Michigan Small Business Restart Program has provided significant support to small businesses and nonprofits helping to get them through this critical time and on the path to economic recovery,” adding, “We are thankful for the efforts of our economic development partners, who worked to deliver these vital financial resources within their regions and create a path toward economic recovery for small businesses throughout Michigan.”

The grants under the Michigan Small Business Restart Program have been allowed to be used as working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses or other similar expenses.

Ellison Brewery and Spirits in East Lansing was awarded a $20,000 grant through the Lansing Economic Area Partnership and the funds have helped the veteran-owned small business weather the COVID-19 pandemic, according to owner and president of operations Aaron Hanson.

Hanson says, “Being a veteran-owned company, Ellison Brewing was happy to be selected for the Restart grant program which has allowed us to continue to create a sanitized and socially distanced environment for customers to enjoy locally-made products safely.”

Mastercraft Homes in Sterling Heights was awarded a $2,500 grant through Macomb County and the funds have helped the veteran-owned small business do installations and pay bills, according to owner Dennis Bolo, who says, “This grant helped us tremendously in a small way. We continue to work because we have to but this helped carry us through in paying the ordinary bills. We are grateful for the amount received.”

To see the full list of businesses that were awarded Restart grants, click this link: MI-restart-grants

Howe Art Supplies, an art studio offering hard-to-find art supplies, workshops, and classes in Swartz Creek, was awarded a $10,000 grant through the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce, and owner Sharlene L. Howe said the funds could not have come at a better time, noting, “The Michigan Small Business Restart Grant has been a Godsend for small businesses like mine. The grant funding has allowed me to put personal protections in place that will allow me to keep my doors open, and my customers safe, during the current health crisis.” She adds, “The funding has also allowed me to hire two employees to assist with cleaning and day-to-day operations. I am very grateful.”

The Michigan Small Business Restart Program is modeled after the Michigan Small Business Relief Program, approved on March 19th by the Michigan Strategic Fund to support small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis through $10 million in grants and nearly $10 million in loans across all 83 counties in the state.

In total, the MEDC has launched 19 COVID-19 relief and recovery programs that have supported more than 18,500 businesses in the state and helped to retain nearly 147,000 jobs across all 83 counties.