Small Business Restart Program offering $100M in grants (update)

Fund distribution is being administered by 15 economic development organizations for all 83 Michigan counties.
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The Michigan Small Business Restart program will provide $100 million in grants to small businesses around Michigan working to recover from the ongoing impacts of COVID-19. iStock

UPDATE (12:44 p.m. Sept. 29, 2020): The Right Place announced Tuesday that it distributed more than $9 million in grant funds to 1,060 small businesses.

Additionally, Lakeshore Advantage announced Tuesday that it distributed $3.325 million to 428 small businesses and nonprofits.

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Small businesses have until Aug. 5 to apply for a grant program that opened this month to assist with COVID-19 recovery.

The Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) on July 7 approved a $100 million Michigan Small Business Restart program that will provide grants to small businesses around Michigan working to recover from the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

The state of Michigan appropriated the funds from federal CARES Act funding through SB 690, signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on July 1.

The $100 million program includes a $15 million Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant Program to support the needs of Michigan’s agricultural processors and farms. Unlike the Michigan Small Business Restart Program, the ag safety grants are first come, first served.

“The COVID-19 virus has especially impacted Michigan’s food and agriculture sector. This investment will provide critical resources to ensure the safety of Michigan’s food production industry and its workforce,” Whitmer said. “We can further our economic recovery in Michigan by putting federal dollars through the CARES Act to work for the people and businesses across our state through efforts like these.”

MSF authorized distribution of the funding across 15 local or nonprofit economic development organizations (EDOs) covering all 83 counties in the state to provide a base amount of $3.5 million per EDO for grants up to $20,000 each to support certain small businesses that have realized a significant financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.

Participating EDOs are as follows:

  • InvestUP – $4,545,455
  • Networks Northwest – $4,545,455
  • Otsego County Economic Alliance – $3,500,000
  • Target Alpena – $3,500,000
  • The Right Place – $9,545,455 (with West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Guillermo Cisneros and Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses President and Founder Jamiel Robinson co-chairing the committee in charge of fund distribution)
  • Lakeshore Advantage – $3,500,000
  • Middle Michigan Development Corporation – $3,500,000
  • Saginaw Future – $3,545,455
  • Flint & Genesee Chamber – $8,045,455
  • Lansing Area Economic Partnership – $5,545,455
  • Southwest Michigan First – $7,545,455
  • Ann Arbor Spark – $8,545,455
  • Oakland County – $11,045,455
  • Macomb County – $7,545,455
  • Detroit Economic Growth Corporation – $15,545,450

“This is great news for small businesses with the potential of over 160 organizations being funded in Allegan and Ottawa counties, and Lakeshore Advantage is honored to be stewards of these funds to assist in challenging times,” said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. “As we work through how the program will be administered locally, we are being thoughtful of the need, the process and assembling a review committee of financial experts and business leaders.”

MEDC CEO Mark Burton said he expects there will be high demand for the Michigan Small Business Restart Program grants because the list of eligible expenses will be broader than with previous grant programs, and because full reopening will not be as quick as state leaders initially thought.

“With the outbreak of COVID-19, many small businesses have been faced with significant economic impacts, including challenges with cash flow and resources to support their workforce,” Burton said. “The Michigan Small Business Restart program, combined with other Michigan Strategic Fund programs and services, as well as local and federal economic development support, will enable small businesses throughout the state to address the short-term impacts of the COVID-19 crisis while looking ahead to the long-term economic recovery needs of the state.”

Grant funds through the program can be used as working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses or other similar expenses.

To qualify for grant support, businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • Business or nonprofit that can demonstrate it is affected by the COVID-19 emergency, including demonstrated income loss
  • In need of working capital to support eligible expenses
  • Has not received a grant through the Michigan Strategic Fund’s Michigan Small Business Relief Program. Businesses that have received support through other COVID-19 relief programs, including the Michigan Small Business Relief Program loans, are eligible to apply for Restart grants.

Additionally, at least 30% of the funds awarded under the program must be provided to women-owned, minority-owned or veteran-owned eligible businesses. The MEDC anticipates that more than 5,000 businesses across the state will benefit from this program.

“MEDC has seen across the country that the impact of COVID-19 has affected certain businesses more than others, not just in terms of industry type, but also it’s had a broader impact on minority- and women-owned businesses,” Burton said. 

“So the legislation included this provision in there … and it’s a reflection of that (problem) and making sure people in all corners of our state have an opportunity with a program to the scale and scope of $100 million with grants of $20,000 or less, to make sure it’s as equitable as possible in terms of seeing who will benefit from this program, because it is important we address inequities we’re seeing in impact.”

The Michigan Small Business Restart Program application, along with FAQs and eligibility information, is at michiganbusiness.org/restart. Applications will be accepted through Wednesday, Aug. 5. Burton said the timing of distribution of the funds likely will vary by EDO.

Per statutory requirements, a monthly report will be provided to the legislature that includes a listing of grants awarded in the previous month and the name of the recipient of each grant provided under the program. All reporting forms will also be available at michiganbusiness.org/restart.

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.

Under the Michigan Small Business Relief grant program, local EDOs selected more than 2,700 businesses across the state covering all 83 counties that received grant support expected to retain about 11,000 jobs. To date, more than 130 small business loans totaling more than $8 million have been approved through MSF.

The Michigan Strategic Fund on July 7 also approved the $15 million Michigan Agricultural Safety Grant Program, which supports the implementation of COVID-19 monitoring and mitigation strategies to protect agricultural employees and the state’s overall food production industry. Peter Anastor, director of agriculture development with Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), said entities can apply for a Michigan Small Business Restart grant or an ag safety grant, but not both. To learn more and apply for the ag safety grant, people can visit michiganbusiness.org/agsafety.

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