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Wayne County establishes $50 million fund for small-business grants

Wayne County plans to use $50 million in federal funds to provide grants of up to $10,000 in an effort to help struggling small businesses.

The new Wayne County Back to Work Small Business Grant fund comes from the county's share of dollars from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and was set to be approved by the Wayne County Commission on Thursday morning.

While Wayne County has already used a mix of grant and loan programs to support struggling companies since the COVID-19 pandemic began back in March, the added presence of relatively attainable grants should be an added boost, said Wayne County Commission Chair Alisha Bell.

"So this grant program is going to be so important for those small businesses who just need that extra money that they can put in for either rent, for utilities, for paying their staff," Bell said Thursday morning during a call with reporters. "Whatever they need to make sure that their business stays afloat."

The neighboring counties of Oakland and Macomb have previously announced similar funds using CARES Act dollars of $32 million and $20 million, respectively.

Upon approval by the full commission, the county will take about 10 days to do outreach efforts to small businesses to educate them on eligibility for the grants, according to Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.

"We also are not going to start the program for about another 10 days, not because we want to wait but ... (we want to) get people to understand the program, understand what the program can do ... so businesses aren't intimidated," said Evans. "We think it's going to be really a critical shot in the arm along with the other things we've done."

Any business in Wayne County meeting the following criteria will be eligible:

Employs less than 50 FTE employees.

In existence for over one year, according to tax documentation.

Located in a brick-and-mortar commercial building and unable to accommodate work from home.

In good standing with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Total annual revenue does not exceed $1 million.

The state's economy has slowly been coming back to life in recent weeks, as bars and restaurants, retail and other service providers have been re-emerging from state mandated closures.

Khalil Rahal, assistant county executive who heads Wayne County's economic development efforts, noted that businesses coming out of hibernation have increased costs and other pressures due to capacity limits, need for personal protection equipment and other requirements.

Due to those requirements, Rahal said the new grant fund was designed - at the request of Evans - to be "more flexible," rather than restrictive.


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