Many Oakland County small businesses seriously impacted by the coronavirus pandemic will get additional financial relief after County Executive David Coulter and the Board of Commissioners announced that $12 million was added to the county’s small business stabilization fund.
Coulter also announced the county Health Division has begun an aggressive partnership with local fire departments and EMS on large-scale COVID-19 testing in independent living facilities. The program began Wednesday in West Bloomfield and continues today in Southfield and Friday in Birmingham. Additional areas will be added each week. In addition the county has expanded drive-thru testing to Pontiac, Southfield and will include Novi beginning the first week in May.
“We have over 134 senior living facilities in Oakland County impacted by the coronavirus, which has resulted in more than 1,200 confirmed cases and 313 deaths,” Coulter said.“Our focus is on independent living facilities which often lack the medical staff to conduct large-scale testing. We have formed important partnerships with local fire departments to address this urgent need.”
The Health Division continues to work with skilled care and nursing homes, many of whom have their own capacity to test, and provide necessary assistance. These facilities may receive their testing kits directly from the state.
“We will continue aggressive outreach to ensure senior communities, who are especially vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus, have the resources they need to protect residents and staff from the pandemic,” Coulter said. “Our health officer will continue to monitor these efforts and consider additional health orders that may be necessary.”
On April 29, the Board of Commissioners approved the $12 million expenditure after Coulter said the initial $3 million grant package of local and state funding was quickly exhausted by struggling small businesses.
“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 MEDC 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.”