The Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative sounded like a godsend for Michigan business owners when it was first announced. Not exactly a state program, but a quasi-public statewide grant program from Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), the $10 million program is directed at keeping the small businesses hardest hit by COVID-19 lockdowns afloat—businesses like restaurants and bars, theaters and live venues.

The money, which will be disbursed in grants of up to $15,000, comes from federal CARES Act funding. Eligible businesses need to be in a targeted industry; be in need of assistance for payroll, rent or mortgage, or utility expenses needed to continue or restart operations; and have between 2 and 50 employees.

“We remain focused on getting critically needed relief into the hands of those businesses that need it most,” said Mark Burton, CEO of MEDC, in a news release on Friday, December 11.

Applications for the grant opened on Tuesday, December 15. When MEDC closed the portal that night, they had received nearly 8,000 applications, and over 14,000 hopefuls were still waiting to submit theirs.

The problem is, the program may be able to award as few as 700 of those, which will be reviewed for need on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“There is no doubt that there has been overwhelming demand for these relief grants — far beyond the $10 million available for the program,” said Aubrey Martinson, co-owner of Chelsea Alehouse Brewery and one of the hopefuls who managed to apply on Tuesday.

That’s why many small business owners are looking beyond their state, hoping for further federal relief funding. Other grants and assistance programs of varying sizes are also available at the county and city levels.

If approved, grants are expected to be disbursed in mid to late January 2021.

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash