Small businesses help define our sense of place; financial relief for them is essential

The VIEW from here



Last week, the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) freed up $10 million for another grant program to help small businesses that are still reeling from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the businesses hurt most by the ongoing public health crisis are those establishments where groups of people tend to congregate for extended periods of time and often in close quarters.

They are the restaurants and bars, lodging providers, live event venues and movie theaters, conference and meeting facilities, indoor recreation facilities, and gyms and fitness centers. More than just places to conduct commerce, as important as that is, they are employers and part of the rich tapestry of our communities; owned or staffed by our neighbors, friends and family members.

However, with the aid of federal CARES Act dollars, the Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative will award grants of up $15,000 to at least 670 small businesses across the state. The grants will help support those businesses that are facing severe reductions in cash flow, and the funds may be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments or utility expenses.

The application period opens on Tuesday, Dec. 15, and I urge establishments to move quickly in applying. That’s because the funds will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Fortunately, there are also other financial relief programs available to help struggling small businesses. Metro Community Development has established the Genesee County Minority PPE Grant Program to assist eligible businesses that have experienced costs, business interruptions and closures due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, Huntington in October launched a $25 million lending program – called Huntington Lift Local Business – aimed at minority, women and veteran-owned businesses that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

Although the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce is not a grant administrator for any of the above programs, our Economic Development consultants stand to ready to assist prospective applicants in completing their paperwork and navigating the process.

In fact, 2020 has been a very busy year for our team in helping businesses secure emergency financial support from various grant and loan programs set up to assist small businesses.

This critically important work will continue to be a major focus of the Flint & Genesee Chamber through the end of the year and into 2021. We will be unveiling additional tools and resources in the days and weeks ahead to streamline the sharing of information that is relevant to small businesses. The goal is also help ensure the equity of access to that information across different audiences.

From a business perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a stark reminder about the degree to which our small businesses create a sense of place and livable communities in Genesee County. Today, the needs of these businesses are greater than they have ever been in most of our lifetimes but so, too, are the loyalties to our local establishments.

The Flint & Genesee Chamber will strive continually to be the conduit our local business owners and entrepreneurs need to secure the support they have earned.

Kristina Johnston is the chief operating officer of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.