With approximately $165,000 in COVID Adaptation Program CARES Act funding remaining in its coffers, the City of Grand Rapids Economic Development Office has expanded eligibility for Small Business COVID Adaptation Program grants. Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) fund the program.
The City has already provided grants totaling $100,000 to 12 businesses in Grand Rapids Neighborhoods of Focus, 17 census tracts on Grand Rapids’ near-west, southeast and south side. Due to historic inequities, residents and businesses in these areas experience the most disparities when it comes to income, educational opportunities, home ownership and wealth accumulation. Grand Rapids has 47 census tracts in all.
“We really were intentional in the first [round of grants] to only target this money for Neighborhoods of Focus. We wanted to give them preference, to invest in those areas that have tended not to be invested in,” says City of Grand Rapids Economic Development director Jeremiah Gracia. “We wanted to get this dedicated funding to those areas. This was our focus—on equity and equitable outcomes.”
Examples of Grand Rapids’ small businesses that have already leveraged their COVID Adaption Program grants include Cindy’s Chicken Coop and Putt-Putts bar, which both expanded outdoor seating; Love’s Ice Cream, which did website and point-of-sales system upgrades to accommodate online orders; and Swift Printing Co., which purchased indoor air purifiers as well as outdoor furniture and an online point-of-sales system.
"We ended up getting more items for the air purification system and walk up copy service. For all those copies on the fly. The air purification system gives our employees peace of mind with COVID still on everyone's mind," says Jessica Gutowski-Slaydon, president, Swift Printing Co. "The walk-up service is slowly bringing people into our shop to get copies. We started as a business where 100% of our customers walked in to place an order. Now most of our work is brought in through our website or email. This copy center has allowed us to get back to our roots and connect more with our community on a face to face basis." Air purifier at Swift Printing
The new round of grants captures the Neighborhoods of Focus as well as six Corridor Improvement Authorities: Michigan Street, North Quarter, South Division-Grandville, Southtown, Uptown and West Side. To qualify for a grant of up $10,000, for-profit businesses must have between 1 and 25 employees (at least one full-time equivalent low- or moderate-income job), have a physical location, been in business since March 1, 2020, demonstrate loss of revenue due to the pandemic, and not owe past due taxes, fines, fees or other debts to the City.
“Obviously, when the pandemic first hit and construction shut down, we had some delays. I think more notably, this grant supports those neighborhoods to really activate those spaces, for example, adding outdoor seating,” Gracia says. “The grants will be a supplement to the traditional CIA tax increment. The CIA will be able to use the funds they collect on a yearly basis for their original intentions while the grants will achieve [COVID-related needs] like outdoor activation and public space engagement. They still need some support for their small businesses.”
The announcement about the new round of grants was made on Oct. 25. Gracia notes that a good number of small businesses had already submitted applications by Oct. 28. Even so, city staff continue to reach out to eligible small businesses via social media, Corridor Improvement Authority messaging, and even by making door-to-door visits. While there is no set deadline for completing the application, grants will be made on a first-come, first-serve basis until funds run out. The application can be found here.
“Our retail retention specialist and CIA corridor managers will assist businesses with filling out application materials, gathering documents and completing the applications,” Gracia says. “We worked very hard to make it easy as possible and we’re adding another layer of support, one-on-one, to help these folks capture the dollars that are available to them.”
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