Sharlene Howe was wondering how she was going to pay for improvements that would help keep her business up and running.
Then came the Michigan Small Business Restart Grant program. Howe’s shop, Swartz Creek-based Howe Art Supplies, was awarded a $10,000 grant through the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce, funds Howe said “couldn’t have come at a better time.”
“The Michigan Small Business Restart Grant has been a godsend for small businesses like mine,” said Howe, who’s shop offers hard-to-find art supplies, workshops and classes. “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. The funding has also allowed me to hire two employees to assist with cleaning and day-to-day operations. I am very grateful.”
It was a small part of what’s turning out to be a big program. Approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund 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 are reopening and have 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 covering all 83 counties in the state for grants up to $20,000 to support certain small businesses and nonprofits that have realized a significant financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Total relief through the grant crept toward $100 million, according to an announcement this week from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The announcement brings the total amount awarded through the program to $95.6 million, up from $69 million announced at the end of September.
“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,” Whitmer said. “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,” Whitmer added. “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.”
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, this requirement in the awards being made.
“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,” said Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Mark A. Burton. “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 may 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.
“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,” Hanson said.
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.
“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,” Bolo said.
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 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. To learn more about MEDC’s COVID-19 response programs and the impact they are having on economic recovery efforts, visit michiganbusiness.org/covid19response. Other resources for economic reopening efforts as well as businesses across Michigan struggling with economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 virus can be found online at michiganbusiness.org/covid19