KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Businesses in West Michigan hope the $106 million relief package signed into law Tuesday by Governor Gretchen Whitmer is enough to get through the next few months of the pandemic.
“We’ve just been doing our best to try and stay alive during the pandemic,” said Jenna Arcidiaconno.
Arcidiaconno is the co-owner of Armore in Comstock Park. Like thousands of other businesses across Michigan, Amore has been impacted by COVID-19 with shut downs and restrictions since March affecting operations and finances.
“Even if we open at 50 percent, we’re still running our business at 100 percent, which means we have to pay 100 percent of our rent,” said Arcidiaconno. “We can’t pay 50 percent of our rent. We need money for rent, we need money for payroll, we need money for equipment that breaks. We need money for everything right now.”
Under the plan, $55 million in survival grants will be distributed to small businesses with up to $20,000 available to those who were forced to close and up to $15,000 if the businesses partially closed. It also allocates $3.5 million for grants of up to $40,000 to help live entertainment venues and $45 million in direct payments to workers who were laid off during the pandemic.
Arcidiaconno calls it a positive step, but hopes the application process to get the funds is easy.
Earlier this month the Michigan Economic Development Corporation received more than 8,000 applications, with an additional 14,000 in the queue, for a $10 million grant program meant to help 650 small businesses.
“We’ve already worked hard this year, we just need it to be sent to us and not fight over an online program to get money,” said Arcidiaconno.
“Every little bit counts,” said Stephanie Hinman, executive director of the Kalamazoo State Theatre.
Hinman calls the money a bridge as they wait on assistance from the “Save Our Stages” act. She predicts the state funds will help most venues for the next two months.
“It’s a boost that will help with those expenses,” said Hinman. “So while it's not the $10 million that was asked for [originally], it's something. Considering the number of causes that need help right now we're pretty grateful for it.”
Hinman and Arcidiaconno encourage people to support local as these businesses wait for the relief.
“We are part of the community that makes it fun and interesting, so if you don’t support these small little mom and pops they will be gone and we won’t have that special flavor cities are supposed to have,” said Arcidiaconno.