KALAMAZOO – Southwest Michigan First announced 1,434 small business recipients are receiving average grant awards of $5,000 each as part of the state’s Michigan Small Business Restart Program.

Grants must be used for expenditures made between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020 for necessary disbursements incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 and/or working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, costs related to reopening a business or nonprofit, or other uses authorized under the CARES Act.

This funding is made possible by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s release of $100 million from the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF). Back in early July, the MSF authorized distribution of the funding across 15 local or nonprofit economic development organizations (EDOs) covering all 83 counties in the state providing a base amount of $3.5 million per EDO to support certain small businesses that have realized a significant financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 virus.

At the time Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said: ”We can further our economic recovery in Michigan by putting federal dollars through the CARES Act to work for the people and businesses across our state through efforts like these grants.”

Locally, Southwest Michigan First was allocated more than $7 million to split among qualifying small businesses and nonprofits throughout the seven-county region it serves—Berrien, Branch, Cass, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties. Additionally, this allocation required that 30 percent of the funds be awarded to minority-, woman- or veteran-owned eligible businesses.

Applications totaling 2,258 were received and reviewed against scoring criteria including the business have 50 or less employees, can demonstrate it is affected by the COVID-19 emergency, needs working capital to support eligible expenses, and demonstrates an income loss as a result of the pandemic. After review, 60 percent of the funds were awarded to minority-, woman- or veteran-owned eligible businesses with the remaining amount split between area nonprofits and for-profit businesses. A full report on the process completed by Southwest Michigan First can be found here.

“This program puts federal funding to work for small businesses in Michigan hardest hit by the impact of COVID-19 helping to ensure they can keep their doors open and put critical protections in place for their workers and their customers,” said Gov. Whitmer. “Families across the state depend on small businesses for their livelihood, and the Michigan Small Business Restart Program will build on additional COVID-19 business relief efforts through the MEDC to create a strong foundation for Michigan’s long-term economic recovery.”

For more information about Southwest Michigan First, please visit us at www.southwestmichiganfirst.com, or call 269.553.9588.