GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Kent County leaders are doling out $5 million to businesses still unable to open due to state pandemic restrictions, and another $1 million to help fight evictions in the county.
The assistance is part of the latest round of program funding Kent County leaders are drawing from their $114.6 million share of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds.
The support for closed businesses and struggling renters was unanimously approved Thursday, Sept. 24, by the Kent County Board of Commissioners.
In addition to that support, commissioners gave unanimous approval to spend $250,000 in CARES Act dollars on temporary housing hotel vouchers for families facing homelessness, $750,000 on childcare provider assistance and $800,000 on addressing homelessness and affordable housing.
“We must take every action to support job creators who are still shuttered or had a long-delayed reopening,” Mandy Bolter, chair of the Kent County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement. “Working with our business owners and economic groups, it has become painfully clear we will lose some of these jobs forever if we do not act now. I’m thankful we have funding to create this targeted program and hopeful our families and friends can get back to work, safely and soon.”
The Kent County Board of Commissioners has previously allocated $25 million to help small businesses weathering the partial economic shutdown through grants and technical assistance.
The recently-approved $5 million in assistance is for businesses that have been unable to open by order of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer through at least Aug. 1.
Just like the small businesses program, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce will manage the closed-business assistance program.
Dante Villarreal, the chamber’s vice president of business and talent development, said businesses that have remained closed and already received funding through the Small Business Recovery Program are eligible for additional funds.
Grants awarded to closed businesses range between $10,000 and $40,000. Closed businesses that have already received small business funding can only receive up to $40,000 across both programs.
“This whole process we were hoping that businesses would come back online sooner,” Villarreal said. “When any business has over six months of zero revenue, that is really, really impacting that business.”
Unlike the small business program, there is no maximum number of employees a business can have to be eligible for the closed business program. Nonprofits are also included in this latest round of funding.
Villarreal said he expects many movie theaters, entertainment venues, wedding halls and catering services to apply for the program.
Additional businesses that qualify include banquet centers, gyms, fitness centers, recreation centers, bowling alleys, indoor dance areas, skating rinks and other similar recreational, exercise and entertainment facilities.
“Our revenue is down over 90% for the year, and we have no clear idea of when we will be able to reopen or when live music touring will return to normal,” Scott Hammontree, partner and talent buyer for The Intersection, said in a statement. “We were among the first businesses to close and will likely be the last to reopen. All of our employees are furloughed as we have no jobs to offer them.”
The $1 million in eviction diversion funds approved by the board Thursday will bolster the pot of money the Salvation Army Kent County is using to fend off evictions in the county.
The Salvation Army Kent County was designated in July by the state to run its Eviction Diversion Program in the county and was given $2.8 million in state funds to help tenants facing eviction pay back rent.
Related: Dozens applying for help with unpaid rent every day in Kent County
The program was announced about the same time Whitmer lifted her order forbidding evictions in the state.
Salvation Army Kent County leaders previously told MLive the funds provided by Kent County will help prevent evictions in the county. Because the state’s $2.8 million, along with the county’s $1 million, will disappear if not used by Dec. 30, housing advocates expressed worry about a new wave of evictions following the New Year.
Renters struggling to pay their back rent should call 211 for more information on the program. More information on the Small Business Recovery Program can be found here.
Closed businesses can go through the Small Business Recovery Program website to receive the new program funding. On Monday, the website will update to reflect the closed business program.
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