The coronavirus (COVID-19) has everyone on edge. The breaks from workplaces that we used to dream about have become nerve-racking days of social distancing.
Flint, along with the rest of the country, faces uncertain times, and for those who spent their lives building a small business all that work is in jeopardy.
Fortunately for Flint’s small business owners, the State of Michigan and Flint & Genesee County Chamber of Commerce have programs in place to help.
The Chamber is administering the Michigan Small Business Relief Program, which has is a short window for applying for the grant/loan program, and award decisions will be equally quick. Applications must be completed and emailed to MIRelief@flintandgenesee.org by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, March 29. No mailed or hard copy applications can be accepted.
The program allows the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to provide up to $10 million in small business grants and $10 million in small business loans. Genesee County has been allotted $260,000 for these grants, with a maximum grant of $10,000 for businesses that meet certain criteria. In addition, the state has $10 million available for low-interest small business loans, ranging from $50,000 and $200,000.
Applications will be reviewed by Flint & Genesee Economic Development (ED) Group and partners on March 30, 2020. Recipients will be notified on March 31. The MEDC will begin grant and loan contracts on April 1.
“This program provides cash assistance to small businesses that need help now,” says Tyler Rossmaessler, director of economic development for the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.
The grants and loans will support businesses facing drastic reductions in cash flow and the continued support of their workforce and may be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business, Rossmaessler says.
Key information to know about the application process includes:
- There is one application, regardless of whether a business is applying for a grant or a loan. A business may receive a grant or a loan, but not both.
- The grants will be administrated by 15 regional economic development organizations throughout the state, which combined cover all 83 counties in Michigan.
- All applications or recommendations for Michigan Small Business Relief Program loans will be referred from the Flint & Genesee ED Group to the MEDC for evaluation and disbursement.
Full details are available online at flintandgenesee.org/michigan-small-business-relief-program. The site includes a brief questionnaire to determine if a business qualifies for the Michigan Small Business Relief Program. If it does, the application link will appear below.
For more detail on available programs go to the Chamber’s Coronavirus: Resources for Employers and Businesses.
Besides information on the Michigan Small Business Relief Program there’s a Coronavirus Toolkit, unemployment information via GST MichiganWorks! or the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and information on Small Business Association Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved Governor Whitmer’s request for a statewide Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) declaration, opening the opportunity to small businesses to access low-interest loans from the SBA.
The EIDL gives Michigan small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and nonprofits that have suffered substantial economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak the ability to apply for low-interest loans as part of $1 billion in funding made available to the SBA by Congress earlier this month.
“This designation unlocks critical financial resources for small businesses across the state impacted by the tough, but necessary steps we have taken to mitigate the spread of coronavirus here in Michigan,” says Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “While access to these loans is vital, we are continuing to look at every resource available to support our businesses, communities and entrepreneurs around the state impacted by coronavirus.”
This loan can be applied for here.
The Chamber’s website also provides:
- A Resource Marketplace Exchange where businesses can post services they need for other businesses and community members to view and help find solutions
- Documenting and connecting companies with new procurement needs via Pure Michigan Business Connect or the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (e.g. finding manufacturers that can pivot their work to make more personal protective equipment or medical devices)
- Researching and connecting companies to the right unemployment information, via GST MichiganWorks! or the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity
In addition, the Chamber will host video webinars on different topics related to the crisis in place of the usual in-person business workshops the Chamber conducts.
The following video goes into detail about cash assistance opportunities.
“It’s clear from the data that the situation was deeply troubling a week ago. I’m certain conditions are continuing to decline for many of our businesses,” says Chamber CEO Tim Herman. “We want all of our business members to know that we are here for them. Our team is working to support them in every way that we can by tapping our resources, addressing challenges in new and different ways and staying attuned to the rapidly-changing COVID 19 environment.”
To discover what parts of the economy were hit the hardest, the Chamber has an online Business Impact Survey. In just 24 hours 135 businesses had responded.
Most of the information so far has come from restaurants, nonprofits, manufacturers, consulting firms and retail.
Like most places in the state, Flint businesses have experienced a severe drop in revenue, layoffs, and closures. However, approximately 20 percent of those responding say it is too early to quantify the impact of the coronavirus on their businesses.
Those staying open have adapted their business model. Restaurants are now delivery and take-out and offices having people work remotely. Other examples include changing hours, layoffs, temporary closures, changes in service delivery or changing production.
On the question of “how will your employees be affected” the survey found:
- 26 percent reported wages and employee income will be negatively impacted – primarily experienced by businesses in the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries
- 24 percent reported nothing will change for their workers – mainly consulting firms who are losing future revenue and nonprofits that serve at-risk and effected populations.
- 22 percent reported laying off employees – made up almost entirely by restaurants
- 19 percent indicated the impact on employees also includes childcare, reduction in hours, staff working remotely, and revised duties
There is a notable desire to help the rest of the community.
For example, many businesses with meal distribution or other basic needs are offering discounts to fellow members for marketing/technology, gift cards for displaced workers, sanitary or health supplies and other necessities.
“Despite the current uncertainty and hardships, with more on the horizon, it is very encouraging that our business community remains not only empathetic but ready to assist their neighbors, as we work through this crisis,” says the Chamber’s Herman.