Published in Small Business

Michigan Strategic Fund approves $10M pandemic relief program for small businesses

BY Monday, November 30, 2020 05:05pm

The Michigan Strategic Fund has approved a $10 million COVID-19 relief grant program for small businesses that were harmed by recent state restrictions affecting restaurants and entertainment facilities.

Applications for the Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative are expected to open within the next two weeks, state officials said Monday at a Michigan Strategic Fund board meeting. The program is funded by the federal CARES Act.

The grants of up to $15,000 each will be awarded on a regional basis to nearly 700 small businesses that have experienced income losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. The money can be used for payroll expenses, rent or mortgage payments, and utility expenses. To qualify for funding, businesses must have at least two but fewer than 50 employees. 

Businesses that will be considered include restaurants, bars, beverage service providers, lodging providers, live event venues, movie theaters, conference and meeting facilities, ice skating rinks, indoor water parks, bowling centers, gyms and fitness centers. 

Applicants also must be in compliance with all state and local orders related to COVID-19, including orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Chris Whitz, director of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Community Development Block Grant programs, said the agency will conduct selective monitoring to determine whether a business is in compliance with state orders. Businesses will also self-certify whether they are in compliance.

Some Michigan restaurant owners have openly defied DHHS’ Nov. 15 emergency order that includes a ban on indoor dining. The owners of the Andiamo and Joe Muer Seafood restaurants reportedly wrote a letter to Michigan restaurants last week urging them to go against state health shutdown orders. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission ordered emergency suspensions of liquor licenses and permits at three restaurants and bars last week, including two in Newaygo County.

The grant program was approved Monday at a special MSF Board meeting. The board approved $11 million of Community Development Block Grant CARES Act funding for the small business relief program, which includes $1 million for a grant administrator to oversee the program.

The administrator is expected to be selected this week and businesses can apply for the funding by Dec. 15 at the latest, MEDC CEO Mark Burton said during the MSF meeting.

He added that MEDC leaders anticipated more relief funding for businesses following the Nov. 15 DHHS order.

“We knew once again this was a moment, this was an opportunity for us at the MEDC to step up and provide much needed relief given the order and going into the winter,” Burton said. 

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