Gov. Whitmer meets with small businesses to discuss impact of pandemic

Coronavirus

In this photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. Whitmer said Monday, Nov. 16 she has the authority to issue a second stay-at-home order to curb the spiking coronavirus if necessary, pointing to an epidemic-powers law that her administration has used since a setback at the state Supreme Court. Starting Wednesday, Nov. 18 high schools and colleges must halt in-person classes, restaurants must stop indoor dining and entertainment businesses must close. Gathering sizes also will be tightened. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined recipients of the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund for a virtual roundtable today, recognizing the innovation and resilience the small businesses displayed in response to COVID-19.

The conversation touched on the Support Local campaign launched today by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, as well as the impact that additional federal support would have on their businesses.  

“Despite the adversity we have all faced this year, our small businesses have proven what it means to be a Michigander, by rising to the occasion and exemplifying true innovation, collaboration and Midwestern grit,” said Gov. Whitmer. “Our small businesses have not only supported their communities while keeping their employees, customers, and our brave frontline workers safe, but they have made us all proud to call Michigan our home. We all must continue doing our part to help our small businesses not only survive this ongoing pandemic but thrive long after it has ended. I urge all Michiganders to be smart and stay safe as we head into the holiday season. We beat this virus in the spring by listening to medical experts, and we can do it again.” 

Altogether, the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund supported more than 300 small businesses in recovering and restarting their business in response to the pandemic. Funds were used to support small businesses in managing expenses, including rent, payroll, and inventory, due to the significant economic impacts of COVID-19. The fund also supported business growth by providing working capital to assist with increased product or service demand in response to COVID-19, to allow a company to revamp their business virtually through a strengthened online presence, or to start up a company to meet a new demand as a result of COVID-19. 

“Small businesses are the heart of our economy, and we are grateful for our partnership with Michigan Women Forward in helping us provide this critical relief and support throughout the state,” said Mark Burton, CEO of the MEDC. “Under the Governor’s leadership, we have proudly supported more than 18,500 businesses through this outbreak, and we look forward to building on that track record even further in the coming weeks. At the end of the day, we know that Michigan’s businesses and 10 million people are looking for us to set a course for a positive economic future, and we are up for the task.” 

“It’s been a privilege to work with small businesses throughout Michigan during this COVID crisis. We’ve been able to help so many deserving businesses re-open their businesses and find ways to pivot and survive,” said Carolyn Cassin, President and CEO of Michigan Women Forward. “We named the fund ‘the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund’ since that is exactly how to best describe Michigan small businesses – resilient.” 

In the Gaslight Village of East Grand Rapids, Osta’s Lebanese Cuisine has been a staple in the community since 1993. The restaurant closed when COVID-19 arrived in Michigan to protect its employees and customers, presenting a series of financial challenges for both the owners and employees. As a result of its support from the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund, it was able to secure the necessary PPE to reopen safely while continuing to pay its employees and serve the local community.  

“Although our restaurant has suffered a huge financial loss, we have full intentions to move forward with our business and the grant helped us to reopen earlier this year. The funds paid a portion of our rent that was past due with the remaining portion used to purchase needed supplies, including PPE, in order to safely open,” said Diane Aouad, co-owner of Osta’s Lebanese Cuisine. “We are so happy that all our employees who have been with us for not less than 4 years – and some as long as 14 years – have all been able to come back to work.”  

The $1.5 million fund includes support of $500,000 from MEDC and $1 million from Michigan Women Forward’s SBA microlending funds, along with partners including Consumers Energy Foundation, DTE Energy, the New Economy Initiative, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, Fifth Third Bank, Huntington Bank, PNC Bank and Comerica Bank.

To date, the MEDC has supported or repurposed nearly 20 COVID-19 programs to support more than 18,500 businesses and retain nearly 147,000 jobs across every county of the state. To learn more about MEDC’s COVID-19 response programs and the impact they are having on economic recovery efforts, visit michiganbusiness.org/covid19response.

Other resources for economic reopening efforts as well as businesses across Michigan struggling with economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 virus can be found online at michiganbusiness.org/covid19.

The MEDC has also developed a FAQ for Michigan businesses and communities at michiganbusiness.org/covid19-faq.  

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus  and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.  

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