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 A street view of downtown Royal Oak March 27 shows local restaurants advertising that they are still open for business. Oakland County recently announced a $3 million Small Business Stabilization Fund meant to offer some relief to small businesses struggling under shutdown orders due to COVID-19.

A street view of downtown Royal Oak March 27 shows local restaurants advertising that they are still open for business. Oakland County recently announced a $3 million Small Business Stabilization Fund meant to offer some relief to small businesses struggling under shutdown orders due to COVID-19.

Photo provided by Judy Davids


Oakland County announces $3 million Small Business Stabilization Fund

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published March 27, 2020

OAKLAND COUNTY — In an attempt to offer some relief to small businesses struggling under shutdown orders due to COVID-19, Oakland County Executive David Coulter announced a $3 million Small Business Stabilization Fund March 26.

The fund will have two parts — direct grants for small businesses in the county, as well as $700,000 to incentivize manufacturing companies to produce the personal protective equipment that hospitals and health care workers need.

Applications for grant consideration will be available online at oakgov.com/covid March 30, according to officials. The county will distribute up to $10,000 grants for payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utilities and other regular business expenses.

In order to qualify for a grant, companies must have 50 employees or fewer, demonstrate they are in a “nonessential” industry outlined in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders, require working capital, and prove an income loss resulting from the pandemic.

Coulter said a panel, drawing from downtown development authorities, local communities and chambers of commerce, is being formed to review grant applications and make recommendations to the county.

“Getting the pandemic under control is the best thing we can do right now for the economy. This will dictate how quickly we rebound. Unemployment insurance is a critical lifeline during these times of uncertainty,” Coulter said during a March 26 press conference. “But we also have to take immediate steps to stabilize our small businesses.”

Coulter said the county is filling an immediate need.

“We’re already seeing significant impact to the hospitality industry, entertainment industry, restaurants, some of our nonessential health workers, manufacturing and travel,” Director of Oakland County Michigan Works! Jennifer Llewellyn said.

Last week, 23,799 people filed for unemployment in Oakland County — as well as just over 24,000 in Wayne County and 22,542 in Macomb County — with a total of more than 128,000 unemployment claims filed statewide, a weekly increase of more than 2,300%, Llewellyn said.

On March 25, the county received word it would receive $1.15 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Michigan Small Business Relief Program by April 1. The program will provide up to $20 million statewide to support small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 — $10 million in small business grants and $10 million in small business loans.

Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chairman Dave Woodward said the board plans to match the state grant for a total of $2.3 million, plus allocate an additional $700,000 to the fund to support the retooling necessary for local manufacturing businesses to produce personal protective equipment, such as face masks, eye protection and gowns.

Woodward said the $3 million Small Business Stabilization Fund would go before the board during a special meeting March 30, and he expected the board to formally approve the funds at its regularly scheduled meeting March 31.

“We have over 500 businesses that are clothing and sewing manufacturers, plastics and 3D printing and automotive and paint suppliers,” Coulter said. “We want to make sure that if they have the capability to do that, that they don’t have financial constraints and barriers to reconvert machinery or whatever they need.”

Coulter said the county is in contact with local banks to ask them to contribute to the small business relief fund, and Woodward said he anticipated the fund to be up and running by April 1.

Deputy County Executive Sean Carlson said Oakland County represents 21% of Michigan’s gross domestic product, so providing financial support to its businesses is “critical.”

“It’s all about Oakland together, and … this stabilization fund will help keep our companies alive and well,” Carlson said. “I think what’s also important to understand is that 95% of our businesses here in Oakland County represent small businesses with 50 or less employees, so this is much-needed support.”

The Small Business Administration is also providing low-interest loans to small businesses and nonprofits severely impacted by COVID-19. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million. For eligibility information, visit sbdcmichigan.org/disaster-loan-help. To apply, visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Small businesses now have until April 20, instead of March 20, to make monthly sales, use and withholding tax payments. The International Revenue Service also moved national income tax filing day from April 15 to July 15.

To file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits, visit michigan.gov/uia or call (866) 500-0017. Whitmer in executive orders recently expanded unemployment eligibility, and lengthened unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks.