Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist sees ‘unprecedented’ opportunities for small business assistance programs

GRAND RAPIDS – Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist was in Grand Rapids on Monday to tout the Whitmer administration’s economic start-up plan for small businesses as billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funding arrives in Michigan.

State officials expect the state to receive $ 2 billion in remaining funding from the CARES Act, nearly $ 6.5 billion in flexible funding through the US bailout, $ 176 million federal funding from the Small Business Credit Initiative and $ 1.4 billion in federal child care funding.

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” This is unheard of. I can’t say enough, ”Gilchrist told small business owners on Monday at the City center market. “We’ve never had such an opportunity before. It creates an opportunity to invest in people in a way we’ve never had before. ”

Small business owners, economic development agencies and business advocates from across the region attended the Small Business Summit Monday in Grand Rapids.

“With the influx of federal dollars into our state, this is an opportunity to create unprecedented access to capital for disadvantaged micro and small businesses.” Black companies in the Grand Rapids area CEO Jamiel Robinson said in a statement. “From reports and studies, we know that minority-owned businesses have received very few PPP grants and loans. This is an opportunity to further support the recovery of businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic. It is also an opportunity to make transformational investments in businesses that make our neighborhoods dynamic and great.

GRNoir Wine & Jazz Co-owner Nadia Brigham is excited about small business financing opportunities, but called on executives to simplify the process for applying for financing and ensure funds are distributed fairly.

“Don’t do all the analysis after you’ve delivered the dollars and then say… we missed the micro-businesses, or we missed the women-owned businesses, or we missed the black-owned businesses. Do it up front, ”Brigham said. “Be intentional in your strategies to ensure that some of the resources absolutely go to businesses that are smaller and further away from the opportunity than others. ”

Gilchrist noted that the state implemented 23 business recovery economic assistance programs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which have supported 25,000 businesses and helped retain more than 200,000 jobs.

However, he acknowledged gaps in service to “key segments” of the business community who have had difficulty accessing state and federal relief funding.

“None of us have ever experienced or led something like we have experienced in the past year and a half,” said Gilchrist. “Therefore, we have to approach the solutions we offer in a different way. ”

Future state programs will focus on distributing funds to microenterprises, which are defined as having between one and 10 employees and represent 63 percent of businesses in Grand Rapids. A large portion of microenterprises are also owned by people of color, Gilchrist said.

In a recent survey by the Detroit-based nonprofit New Economy Initiative, 86% of microenterprises said they had been negatively affected by the pandemic, and 77% of stated capital was their most important need.

“Through conversations like today, we’ll help answer the multibillion dollar question we face now as we figure out how to use these federal dollars to support all small businesses in Michigan and Greater. Rapids, ”Gilchrist said Monday. .

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