Small businesses wait hours to apply for COVID-19 recovery grant

Small business owners hope grant from state will offset financial burdens caused by COVID-19.
Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 11:34 PM EST
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FLUSHING, Mich. (WJRT) - (12/15/2020) - On Tuesday, thousands of Michigan’s small businesses cried out for help.

Owners of restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and gyms all hoping a grant from the state will offset some of the financial burdens caused by COVID-19.

”I think it just shows the desperation of the industry right now and how much people are really hurting,” John Panos said. Panos owns Liberty Family Dining in Flushing.

On Tuesday morning, the application process went live for $10 million worth of grants for small businesses impacted by the pandemic. It’s first come, first serve.

And as it got closer to 9:00, Panos was ready and anxious.

“I kept hitting refresh, refresh, refresh, like I’m trying to get some concert tickets from way back when, and as soon as that button popped up to hit ‘Apply Now,’ I hit it,” Panos said.

The next thing he knew, he was in a queue behind 1,165 others. He says he waited two hours to submit his application for the Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative. He says his sister, who also owns a restaurant in the area, logged in at 9:18 and was behind more than 9,000 applicants. He says it took nearly ten hours for her to submit her application.

As of 6:00 on Tuesday, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation said there were more than 6,000 applications submitted with almost 12,000 more waiting in the queue.

“This would allow me to at least give my staff more hours, more wages. It’s not so much as I need this lifeline for the business to continue. This is more-so of a ‘What can I do for my employees?’ since really, nothing is being done for them this time around,” Panos said.

Panos says his staff of about 25 is accustomed to busy times, especially this time of year where people are more generous around the holidays. Now, they’re working 15 to 20 hours per week instead of 40 to 50.

Even though this grant would assist about 650 small businesses, he says there needs to be more government aid.

“They just need to figure out some sort of way to help these struggling businesses because a lot of them aren’t going to make it,” Panos said.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation says the agree.

They said in a statement, “The sheer volume of applications in the first few hours of the Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative application going live could not make it clearer the need for additional relief for our small businesses – whether through legislative action here in Michigan or at the federal level.”

The MEDC anticipates eligible businesses will receive a communication the week of January 13 with next steps in the process. The funds will be disbursed by late January.

To visit their website, click here.

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