Chamber foundation and partners create relief fund

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With support from local donors, the Greater Grand Rapids Chamber Foundation created an emergency financial relief fund for small businesses.

The foundation said Wednesday that it has established the Rapid Response Economic Relief Fund to provide short-term, emergency financial relief to small businesses impacted by widespread closures brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The fund has raised more than $1 million so far and seeks to raise $3 million in total.

“We are committed to having both an organization and initiative where the most vulnerable and underserved businesses understand that they belong in this community,” said Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. “It is paramount to support those that have contributed to the vibrancy of our city and work together to cultivate a thriving and prosperous West Michigan for all.”

The fund, which has already started to award grants, provides $5,000 to $10,000 to small businesses located in Kent County with five to 25 full-time employees.

In addition, recipients receive backroom financial support and the services of a business consultant to assist with cash flow projections. Ultimately, the fund seeks to act as a financial bridge to small, for-profit businesses awaiting assistance from government-sponsored programs and to organizations that cannot access local, state or federal relief funds.

The chamber foundation connected with the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB), Start Garden, The Right Place, SpringGR, Ferris Emprende, Local First and area neighborhood business associations to identify potential applicants and to ensure all populations can seek and secure funds.

Thus far, the fund has authorized 44 grants totaling $415,000. Organizations receiving support are 97% minority-owned and 50% women-owned.

“The Rapid Response Relief grant helped preserve over 10 years of dedication to building our business,” said Sterling Massey, of Massey Insurance & Financial Services. “With the funding, we could maintain our staffing model, rework our strategic plan and maintain contact with our customers remotely with minimal interruption. This grant certainly made navigating this crisis easier and may have saved our business.”

Business owners interested in applying should visit grchamberfoundation.org/rapid-response-fund.

Foundations and corporations supporting the Rapid Response Economic Relief Fund:

  • Amway
  • CDV5 Foundation
  • Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation
  • Deloitte
  • Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation
  • Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation
  • Jandernoa Foundation
  • Kate and Richard Wolters Foundation
  • Peter C. & Emajean Cook Foundation
  • Priority Health
  • Profile Films
  • SpartanNash

Donations to the fund can be made at the chamber’s website.

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