Lansing’s LEAP gets $5.5 million from feds for small business restart grants

LANSING–Following months of economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis, more small-business support funds are once again on the way to the Lansing region by order of the federal government, the state Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) has created a small-business restart program with $100 million received from the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) will receive $5.5 million from this fund to provide working capital grants to small businesses and nonprofit entities across Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties.

Qualified applicants will include local, small businesses and nonprofits with 50 or fewer employees which continue to experience financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 and have not previously received a grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Michigan Small Business Relief Program, administered in the tri-county region by LEAP.

According to the legislation, a minimum of 30 percent of all funds will be awarded to small-business owners from eligible underserved populations as defined by the state including women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses.

Intentional and equitable disbursement of these new funds is especially important to LEAP and its three-county community, given the disproportionate distribution of federal COVID-19 small-business emergency funds across the country, revealed in an April 2020 report from the Center for Responsible Lending. The Brookings Institute warns this inequitable distribution is expected to significantly erode recent growth in small-business ownership, particularly among women and racial minorities. With this important reality in mind, LEAP will be partnering  with a broad group of  local organizations that specifically represent the diverse populations of our region to design an accessible, equitable application review process to best identify, assist and award grants to small businesses across Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties. Local economic developers and organizations will also be engaged as part of this critical regional team of experts.

“We are now heading into the fourth month of a uniquely stressful time for all small businesses as we continue to stabilize and grow our local three county economy,” said Bob Trezise, president and CEO of LEAP. “We are also in the midst of a great awakening—a moment in time where we must act deliberately and differently within the scope of economic development. One step in the right direction is to make sure these funds are distributed equitably and support underserved business owners in the Lansing region. I’m hopeful the partnerships established through this effort will also result in new and important voices where economic development conversations occur and decisions are made.”

In addition to working with local economic developers and other critical local organizations, LEAP will begin working immediately with the following organizations to determine the best way to allocate grant funds efficiently and equitably:

  • NAACP of Greater Lansing
  • Dr. Laws-Barker (Melanin in Medicine-Black Business Alliance)
  • Cristo Rey
  • Vietnam Veterans of America – Michigan State Council
  • Disability Network Capital Area
  • Lansing Hispanic/Latino Chamber of Commerce / Cafecito Caliente
  • Islamic Center of Greater Lansing
  • Michigan Women Forward
  • Best Practices Consulting Services
  • Refugee Development Center

At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, LEAP received $1.2 million in state funds for grants and loans, allocated by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer through the program, and worked quickly to develop a regional application, portal and application review process. With this limited funding, LEAP was able to select 60 grant recipients and 12 loan recipients from across the region. Approximately 50 percent of MSBRP grant and loan recipients in the Lansing region were to underrepresented populations.

“We are most thankful to the federal government, to our federally elected officials representing Michigan, Governor Whitmer and the MEDC for this substantial investment in our region. We will be able to do a lot of good as a result,” Trezise said.

The MEDC will identify an application timeline and develop an electronic grant application for eligible businesses and nonprofits to apply, which is expected to open July 15, 2020. Additionally, LEAP and its team of partners will add further criteria to the local application. The MEDC-established grant program details and eligibility requirements will be made available by the MEDC at LEAP will provide additional information pertaining to the Lansing region grants from its website pending further details from the MEDC.

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