Michigan’s small business relief program flooded with applications

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – A $10 million grant program to help small businesses hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic was inundated with applications on Tuesday.

the Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Program began accepting online applications on a first-come, first-served basis at 9 a.m. That’s 28 times the number of businesses the program can help, if all selected applicants receive the maximum amount of $15,000.

Given the overwhelming response, the MEDC closed the online application program at the end of the business day.

According to its website, “As of 6:00 p.m., 6,136 applications have been submitted and over 11,600 remain in the queue.”

“The sheer volume of requests in the first few hours of the Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative app going live couldn’t make it any clearer the need for additional relief for our small businesses – whether through action legislative here in Michigan or at the federal level,” Achtenberg wrote in an email to News 8.

With no time or money to waste, David Jurgenson of the Curragh Irish Pub in the Netherlands was among the first to submit an entry.

“I had planned to try to log in at 9 a.m.,” Jurgenson said. “I was number 148 (in the queue) or something and had to wait for about half an hour.”

If selected as the recipient, Jurgenson hopes to use the grant money to help keep staff on the payroll.

“One of the questions we had to answer (on the application) was ‘should you eliminate a full-time position if you don’t get this grant? “Said Jurgenson. “The other question was, ‘Will you keep a full-time position if you get the grant?’ I answered yes to both.

Ed Garner, the regional director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center, has helped its members through grant and loan processes like this.

Garner said the Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Program has set aside $1.3 million for businesses in the western Michigan region.

But given the number of businesses in need, he said that amount of money could only go so far.

“(He) will be able to help about 86 or 87 businesses with this grant,” Garner said of the West Michigan region.

Along with restaurants, bowling alleys are another hard-hit industry hoping to benefit from the grant money.

“The first thing I’m going to catch up on is some of my utility bills and some of my bank payments,” said Donn Slimmen, owner of Spartan West Bowling Alley. “We’ve been closed for 220 days this year with no revenue, which tells you how far behind we are.”

Achtenberg said the MEDC and its trustee, the Michigan Municipal League Foundation, expected the request to go well beyond the CARES Act funds the program can award and “planned for this eventuality.”

The agency relies on timestamps on submitted applications and email alerts to applicants waiting their turn to keep the process smooth.

“We are confident that the approach and the process are working,” Achtenberg said.

Achtenberg said the provider hosting the online application confirmed there was no unusual activity in the processing of applications, including bots.

Grant-eligible companies will be notified by the MML Foundation the week of January 13 what they need to do next to secure funding. The MEDC expects to distribute the $10 million by the end of January.

**Correction: A previous version of this article listed Garner as a member of the Small Business Association of Michigan. He currently works at the Michigan Small Business Development Center. We regret the error, which has been corrected.

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