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What You Need to Know: State and Federal Business Assistance in Response to COVID-19

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For the most recent version of resources, check out the Southwest Michigan First COVID-19 Response page.

In response to the rapidly developing situation around COVID-19, both the federal government and Governor Whitmer’s office are working to support the needs of both employers and employees during these trying times.

Below is a summary of the most recent tools that have become available.

Who Do You Call for Guidance?

Southwest Michigan First is here for you! If you are a small business located in Southwest Michigan and are seeking guidance before you take action, you are invited to connect with a member of the Southwest Michigan First team by calling 269.553.9588.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) call center also stands ready to support businesses looking for assistance through other available state programs. For more information, visit MEDC’s website: www.michiganbusiness.org or call 888.522.0103.

What About Small Business Relief?

On the federal level, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act  of 2020 (H.R. 6074) expanded the Small Business Act’s definition of a disaster to include Coronavirus (COVID-19). This legislation passed by Congress makes $1 billion available to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide low-interest loans to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and nonprofits that have suffered substantial economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor has informed SBA that she is seeking an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Declaration for the state and has initiated the process to receive the declaration from SBA. Once granted, small businesses in qualifying areas will be able to access low-interest loans through the SBA.

In the interim, we are encouraging small businesses that could benefit from SBA loans to start collecting the information they’ll need to complete and submit their application. Examples of information needed can be found here. For additional information or to obtain help preparing the loan application in advance of the declaration, please contact the Michigan SBA offices in Detroit or Grand Rapids. The Michigan Small Business Development Center can also provide resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Visit their website https://sbdcmichigan.org/small-business-covid19/ for additional information.

Michigan Strategic Fund Support

Economic assistance for small businesses around Michigan that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 virus gained approval from the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced March 19, 2020. The Michigan Small Business Relief Program will provide up to $20 million in support for small businesses negatively impacted. The funding is divided between $10 million in small business grants and $10 million in small business loans to support businesses facing drastic reductions in cash flow and the continued support of their workforce. Funds for the program are expected to be available no later than April 1, 2020.

“We understand small businesses across our state are facing unprecedented challenges as we take every step possible to mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Through decisive actions like those taken today by the MSF Board to authorize relief for small businesses throughout Michigan, we are leveraging every resource available to support our businesses, communities and entrepreneurs around the state impacted by this outbreak.”

You can read the full release here. Southwest Michigan First is currently with its economic development partners on strategies for executing the program.

Michigan SBDC to Host Free Webinars to Guide Business Owners

The Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is hosting free webinars over the next two weeks to help guide business owners amid COVID-19. Here’s what’s coming up:

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has designated COVID-19 as a qualifying event for the provision of Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for businesses and private non-profits in declared zones. Click here to learn how to apply for a disaster loan.

Note: As of March 17, 2020, EIDL loans are not yet available in Michigan. Sign up here to receive an alert from the SBDC when they open!

Small Business Association of Michigan Daily Briefings

The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) is hosting daily briefings on Facebook to help small businesses navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Afterwards, they replay at sbam.org.

Economic Relief for Small Businesses in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren Counties

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has declared Berrien and Cass Counties disaster areas under COVID-19. This means that small businesses and private non-profits located in these counties are now eligible for financial assistance up to $2 million dollars under the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Get additional information and apply here.

Additionally, Cornerstone Alliance is an SBA intermediary that provides microloan funding for small businesses. Microloans are available for $500 to $50,000 to businesses located in Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties. Microloans can be combined with the SBA EIDL loan program. If you have an existing microloan, you may be eligible for additional financial assistance under the microloan program. Click for more information about the microloan program or contact Dubelsa Mata-Garcia at dmata@cstonealliance.org.

If you have an existing microloan and you are having a hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be eligible for payment relief. Complete this survey to submit your request.

From the Treasury: Small Business Taxpayers Provided Tax Assistance

Small businesses that have experienced disrupted operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic now have additional time to make their sales, use and withholding tax monthly payment, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.Effective immediately, small businesses scheduled to make their monthly sales, use and withholding tax payments on March 20 can postpone filing and payment requirements until April 20. The state Treasury Department will waive all penalties and interest for 30 days. Read the full press release here.

Unemployment Benefits: What To Do If You’re an Employer or an Employee

On Monday, March 16, 2020, the Governor issued an executive order to temporarily expand eligibility for unemployment benefits. Under the order, an employer or employing unit must not be charged for unemployment benefits if their employees become unemployed because of an executive order requiring them to close or limit operations. You can view executive order 2020-10 here.

Read this summary to better understand the governor’s order which extends unemployment benefits to: 

  • Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill. 
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off. 
  • First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19. 

Eligible employees should apply for unemployment benefits online at Michigan.gov/UIA  or 1-866-500-0017. A factsheet on how to apply for benefits can be found here.

Additional unemployment resources for employees can be found here and for workers here.

State Provides Guidance to Employers Contemplating Potential Layoffs

As of March 18, 2020, the state is giving guidance to employers contemplating potential layoffs. Work Share and Temporary Leave are encouraged. Here’s the latest update.

“We know that many families and businesses are and will experience economic pain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said LEO Director Jeff Donofrio. “Through Governor Whitmer’s executive action and existing state programs, there are resources for employers affected by COVID-19. We are also strongly urging job providers facing work shortages to place their employees on temporary leave as opposed to termination, so that they may remain eligible for potential federal assistance.”

Virtual Procurement Assistance

Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) Virtual Procurement Assistance is sourcing health and human service supply needs amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. The PMBC is looking for both buyers and suppliers of critical health and human service supplies across a broad range of product categories. Potential items to supply could include cleaning supplies, equipment, food and water, medical devices, paper products, pharmaceuticals, testing supplies, textiles, vitamins, and more. Potential buyers are childcare facilities, community centers, education institutions, food distribution centers, healthcare facilities, homeless shelters, municipalities/government, nonprofit, etc. Join in this important effort by starting here.

Expanded Work Share Program in Michigan

The same order also expands the State’s Work Share program. Employers are encouraged to implement the program that permits employers to maintain operational productivity during declines in regular business activity instead of laying off workers. With the plan, eligible employees work a reduced number of hours in the work week and receive a portion of weekly unemployment benefits. Participation in Work Share allows employers to retain trained employees and avoid the expense of recruiting, hiring, and training new employees.

More information about Work Share can be found here.

Governor is Seeking Assistance Through FEMA

Additionally, the governor has requested that President Trump issue a Major Disaster Declaration so that Individual Assistance and Disaster Unemployment Assistance through FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) may be made available to additional Michiganders affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Financial Relief Measures

Financial institutions across Michigan have announced steps they are taking to alleviate economic injury experienced by consumers and businesses. Here are links to programs that have been passed along to our team:

Legal Task Forces

Law firms are rising to cope with this unprecedented challenge to everyday life. In addition to challenges to their own services due to court closures and community responses limiting face-to-cace contact, they are tackling  concerns as contractual agreements and supply chain matters. Many closely monitoring policies affecting labor and employment relations, policies to govern self-quarantine, and how to handle business immigration issues that may arise. We invite you to research what those with a presence are doing to best serve your needs.

Employer Tools

Employee Tools

  • Bartender Emergency Assistance Program: This program assists bartenders that have experienced a catastrophic event or emergency hardship impacting their ability to work.

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