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The path to getting back to business

Mar 11, 2021

Thanks to the State of Michigan, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation has administered more than $15 million in grants to Detroit small businesses since the COVID-19 crisis began.These grants resulted from three relief programs created to support small businesses disproportionately impacted by the Gatherings and Face Mask Order:

  • Michigan Small Business Relief Program launched in March 2020 and awarded $800,000 to Detroit-based small businesses. This was combined with additional funding from the Economic Development Corporation of the City of Detroit for a total of $4 million distributed to over 740 Detroit small businesses by DEGC.
  • Michigan Small Business Restart Program ran from July to August 2020 and provided $7.25 million in aid to more than 900 Detroit small businesses.
  • Michigan Small Business Survival Program offered grants of up to $20,000 to businesses that were fully closed as the result of the order, and up to $15,000 to businesses that were partially closed. In February, DEGC distributed $4.06 million in Survival Program funds to 375 Detroit small businesses in just three weeks. More than 72 percent of grant dollars were awarded to minority-owned businesses, 53 percent to Black-owned businesses and 49 percent to women-owned businesses. A complete list and map of program recipients are located at degc.org.

Funds from these relief programs are being used by business owners to assist with payroll, rent, mortgage payments, utilities and other similar expenses. Today, more than a year into the COVID-19 crisis, we have much to be grateful for:

  • The number of confirmed cases and COVID-related deaths continues to decline in Detroit;
  • More of our residents continue to be deemed eligible to receive a vaccination;
  • Some capacity restrictions on small businesses have recently been eased by Governor Whitmer; and
  • $15 million in grant dollars is in the hands of Detroit business owners.

There’s no denying that all of this is very good news. However, while grants, forgivable loans and other relief packages help businesses stay afloat short-term, the only true solution to business sustainability is customer revenue. Restaurants, neighborhood bars, retailers, childcare centers, barbers and other businesses need the financial support only customer sales can provide. The duty of protecting small businesses as economic drivers in the City of Detroit is not the job of non-profits, governments or philanthropy alone. If we want to have vibrant commercial corridors in our communities once the pandemic passes, we must act now. That means prioritizing and being passionate about shopping local.

Here are just a few actions you can take today:

  • Shop online at local stores
  • Order takeout or delivery
  • Buy gift cards or subscriptions from local small businesses
  • Leave positive reviews for local businesses on Yelp, Google or other social channels
  • Keep your gym membership and participate in virtual classes
  • Donate items to local resale shops
  • Support fundraisers to help a business survive
  • Petition your local legislator for more small business relief
  • Wear your mask where and when required while visiting businesses

Every day I talk with small business owners about the impact of COVID on their operations. As you can imagine, their emotions often run from exhausted to optimistic. However, they all share one wish – the urgent desire to “get back to business.” These entrepreneurs want to open their doors wide, serve their communities, provide quality products and services, and make a decent living for themselves and their families. Let’s help them do that by spending our dollars here at home.

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