$5.2M Goes to 544 Small Businesses as First Round of Recovery Grants Helps Retail, Others Hurt by COVID-19

Oakland County small retail, restaurant and personal services businesses will share $5.2 million from the Oakland Together Small Business Recovery Grant fund.

The awards, which were announced July 30 by Oakland County Executive David Coulter, will give an average of $9,450 to each of 544 businesses approved for grants. The $5.2 million is the first of five distributions from the $30 million fund. Businesses that applied but did not receive an initial grant do not need to reapply and will be considered as the balance of the fund is distributed.

“These grants provide a lifeline for many small businesses, restaurants and personal service providers who have been devastated during this pandemic,” Coulter said. “It is important we stabilize these businesses as they work to recover and safely welcome back their employees and their customers. Eighty-four percent of the businesses that applied were approved for grants.”

The grants, ranging from $2,500-$10,000, provide an infusion of capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses or others that occur in the ordinary course of business. The funds come from Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money allocated to Oakland County by the federal government. Coulter and the Board of Commissioners collaborated to create the program.

Of the 544 grants awarded, 194 went to a minority-owned business; 244 to a woman-owned business and 22 to a business owned by a U.S. military veteran.

Roland Elam, a minority business owner, was gratified that Coulter and Oakland County were looking after small business owners and small businesses like his, Elam Barber Shop in Pontiac.

“I have always been supporting and looking out for the interest of my community, it’s nice to now see that we have a county executive that is doing the same for all of Oakland County, no matter how big or small your company may be,” Elam said.

Ryan Wiltse of River’s Edge Brewery in Milford was equally pleased. He said the brewery has worked diligently to make sure it follows the local and state guidelines to ensure employees and customers have a safe experience.

“We’re thrilled to receive an Oakland Together Small Business Recovery Grant,” Wiltse said. “It has been a very challenging few months.”

The deadline to apply for an Oakland Together Small Business Recovery Grant is Aug. 24 and can be done online at www.oakgov.com/covid/grants. The site describes the program in detail and lists the type of eligible businesses, which include:

  • Retail trade
  • Food and lodging
  • Business and personal services
  • Entertainment and recreation
  • Construction and maintenance services

Distributions will be made about every two weeks until the fund is exhausted. The funds are intended to support for-profit businesses with 100 or fewer employees that suffered actual or anticipated losses from March through July due to the pandemic:

  • Experienced a loss of revenue
  • Operated at a reduced level of production, sales, employment or service
  • Fully closed all operations and are now in the process of reopening

In June, Coulter requested the county Board of Commissioners allocate $32 million to create the recovery grants. The board unanimously approved the request, with $30 million of the allocation earmarked for small businesses. Only businesses that operate a physical location in Oakland County are eligible to receive grant funds through this program.

Eligible businesses include:

  • Retail trade
  • Food and lodging
  • Business, construction, maintenance and personal services
  • Entertainment and recreation

Coulter and the board have been aggressive in funding programs and services to help mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic to businesses, communities and residents, devoting more than $100 million to the cause.

Allocations and services include:

  • Nearly $14 million to 3,500 small businesses seriously impacted by the pandemic. Grants averaged nearly $4,000 from the small business stabilization fund.
  • The “Saving Businesses, Saving Lives” grant, which incentivized Oakland County manufacturers to produce personal protective equipment for health care workers, hospitals and first responders, is included in the nearly $14 million fund.
  • $10 million fund to support non-profit organizations
  • $32 million to assist Oakland County communities with costs related to COVID-19
  • 15,000 Oakland Together COVID-19 safety kits which include facemasks, no-touch thermometers, gloves and sanitizer were created to give small businesses essential materials for reopening and customers confidence they would have a safe experience. The kits are available to small businesses, faith-based and nonprofit organizations.
  • $32 million to help retail stores, restaurants and personal service businesses such as salons   and fitness centers that were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • $8.1 million for the Rent, Mortgage & Utility Relief Program to assist eligible county residents who have fallen behind on their rent, mortgage or utility payments because of a lost job or other income reduction due to the COVID-19 pandemic with a one-time grant of up to $15,000 per household.

For webinars and assistance with the grant application, visit https://www.oakgov.com/covid/grants/Pages/small-business-recovery.aspx.