Oakland County approves $12 million for small businesses during COVID-19 pandemic

Initial grant funds quickly used


OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. – The Oakland County Board of Commissioners approved a $12 million expenditure after County Executive Dave Coulter said the initial $3 million grant package of local and state funding was quickly exhausted by struggling small businesses.

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“This allocation quadruples the first stage of our assistance package and provides an immediate infusion of working capital for our small businesses,” Coulter said. “I applaud the Board of Commissioners for moving so quickly and so aggressively to help stabilize a dire reality for our small businesses caused by this global health crisis.”

Nearly 7,400 small businesses – 17 percent of all businesses in Oakland County – applied for grants from the initial fund, which was created in late March, with a $1.15 million award from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The county matched the award and added another $700,000 to create the “Saving Businesses, Saving Lives” grant program to incentivize manufacturers who could transition to making personal protective equipment for health care, hospitals and first responders. Two companies received those grants so far and more are expected to be announced soon.

Last week, about 800 small businesses were awarded grants averaging between $2,500-$5,359, depending on the business location within the county. The grants are to be used to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business. Small businesses pegged their need at nearly $80 million.

Seeing the overwhelming response and obvious need, Coulter asked the board for additional funding. It was not a tough sell. Board Chairman David Woodward introduced the resolution.

“This was not an issue of do we or don’t we help our small businesses but simply a matter of how much and how quickly,” Woodward said. “These businesses don’t have time to wait. Their need is immediate and profound.”

As in the first round, applications will be evaluated by a team of local economic leaders from each of 12 geographic districts. Recommendations will be made in compliance with strict Michigan Economic Development Corporation guidelines. The maximum award is $10,000.

“These small businesses critical to our economic recovery,” Coulter said. “They bring life to our downtowns; they hire our residents and support our communities. There is no economic engine in Oakland County without them. We must do all we can to help them survive.”

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