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Applications for MEDC small business relief grants of up to $20,000 open Tuesday – Detroit Free Press

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Adrienne Roberts
 
| Detroit Free Press

Small business owners negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to apply for a grant of up to $20,000 starting Tuesday.

The Michigan Strategic Fund board on Thursday approved $55 million in grants for small businesses, part of a broader COVID-19 relief bill passed by the Michigan Legislature and signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year. 

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is coordinating the effort with 15 local or nonprofit economic development organizations that cover the 83 counties across the state awarding the funds.

Grants of up to $20,000 are available to businesses that are fully closed. Grants of up to $15,000 will go to businesses that have been partially closed, or are open and can show the detrimental impact the pandemic has had on their business.

“We have seen the urgent need for these resources for small businesses across the state, Mark Burton, CEO of the MEDC, said in a news release, adding that the MEDC will “ensure this funding gets into the hands of businesses efficiently, effectively and with the greatest impact possible.”

More: Michigan workers affected by COVID-19 can apply for money from state

More: Michigan business owners, economists optimistic about state’s recovery in 2021

Burton said in an interview that the MEDC chose to distribute the funds through the local economic development organizations like they’ve done in the past because they can add specific requirements that may be important to their region, and because they know the businesses well.

Once all the applications are submitted by next Friday, it will take a few weeks for the local organizations to go through the applications, he said, “One week, best case scenario, likely more than that.”

He said the application process is shortened compared with prior rounds, though, to get the money into the hands of small business owners as quickly as possible to fill the gap between when the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) goes out to businesses and another stimulus package that’s likely under the incoming administration.

“How do we deploy resources on a continuum to get as many businesses as possible through winter?” Burton said. “We all understand the circumstances and the capacity restrictions with bars and restaurants, but warmer weather does help.”

Details of the application process should come as some relief to the 22,000 business owners who showed up online to apply for a total of $10 million in funds last month. Many exited the online queue before they were even able to apply after seeing how many other businesses were hoping to get a grant of up to $15,000. That program was first-come, first-served.

Burton didn’t give any estimates on how many businesses will apply, but he “expects demand to be high” given what the MEDC saw with the December grant program.

He expects the grants will be used for fixed costs, to keep employees on payroll, and pay rent, the mortgage and utilities.

Burton said since March,he has  he’s seen a wide variety of businesses apply for the grant, but he would like to see “micro-enterprises” apply.

“When you are a very small operation, you may not be connected with your local economic development organization,” he said. “It’s a legacy business that’s been in your family for generations and it’s always been there and you’ve never needed any sort of contact there. Some have been able to apply, and every time we’ve made it easier and easier for businesses to do that.”

The MSF board also approved the $3.5 million Michigan Stages Survival Grant Program, which will provide up to $40,000 in one-time grants to eligible live music and entertainment venues that have experienced a significant financial hardship because of the pandemic. Burton said given the requirements to be eligible for this grant, he expects no more than 100 venues to apply, and it “should be easy to administer.”

In total, the MEDC has now launched 23 COVID-19 relief programs that have supported more than 18,500 businesses in the state.

How to apply

A single, statewide application for the program goes live at 9 a.m. on Tuesday and will close at noon Jan. 22, at michiganbusiness.org/stages.

Who is eligible 

  • Businesses with  1 to 100 employees (including full-time, part-time and owner/employees) on Nov. 17, 2020.
  • Those in an industry that demonstrates it was affected by the state health department’s epidemic orders.
  • Needs working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses or other similar expenses.
  • Can demonstrate an income loss as a result of the order.
  • Is not a live music and entertainment venue that is eligible for the Michigan Stage Survival grant program.

Contact Adrienne Roberts: amroberts@freepress.com.

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