WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI — Small businesses across Washtenaw County impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic may be able to receive financial help starting in January.

Washtenaw County is launching its Small Business Growth Activator Program early next year to help support and expand small businesses across the county.

The program, directed by the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, aims to help 80 to 100 businesses by providing $5,000 grants and free business assistance for those affected by COVID-19. Businesses can be mobile, based online, at home, or be in a brick-and-mortar location.

The program is meant to help micro-enterprises that are often overlooked, said Cheranissa Roach, Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development economic opportunity manager.

“We are hoping this program fills in the gaps for the places that need help and support to stabilize and grow their businesses,” she said. “For a lot of micro-enterprise business owners, this is the way they feed and take care of their families so being able to support them is just really pivotal.”

These efforts will not only aid business, but will also increase and help Washtenaw County’s economy, Roach said.

The program will start with up to $1 million of Federal CARES Act funding approved by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners and Washtenaw Urban County in 2022.

To be eligible to apply, small businesses must be located in Washtenaw County, have five employees or less including the owner, have been in business since March 16, 2020, and have the owner’s household income at or below 80% of the area’s median income .

Businesses that closed after March 16, 2020, but wished to reopen, are still eligible for the program, Roach said.

Along with providing financial help, the program is partnering with five organizations to bring business coaching and classes to teach small businesses how to be successful. Eligible businesses can choose and participate in one program.

The programs will offer help with accounting, website design and personal business coaching, as well as other tips and tricks. To see eligibility or to apply for this program, click here.

Those who are not eligible for the program should keep an eye out for other events that may come up in the future, Roach said, adding that she is working to create an opportunity next year for businesses to connect with helpful organizations and to find additional funding.

“We know that some people are going to miss, but we are trying to help as much as we can,” he said.

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