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Small businesses get financial relief

MARQUETTE — Relief totaling approximately $52.5 million for nearly 6,000 small businesses across Michigan has been awarded to date through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Michigan Small Business Survival Grant program, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on Wednesday.

“The Michigan Small Business Survival Grant Program provides crucial support to Michigan’s small businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Whitmer said in a statement. “These grants, combined with additional business relief efforts offered by the MEDC, will create a strong foundation for Michigan’s long-term economic recovery.

“As we distribute the safe and effective vaccine and work to end the pandemic once and for all, I will continue partnering with leaders across the state and urging passage of the MI COVID Recovery plan to provide relief for our small businesses, protect public health and jump start our economy.”

Approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund on Jan. 14, the Michigan Small Business Survival Grant Program allocated $55 million to provide support to Michigan small businesses to meet the urgent need of businesses that experienced a significant financial hardship due to COVID-19 emergency “gatherings and face mask orders.”

The program allowed for grants of up to $20,000 to be awarded to businesses that are fully closed, with grants of up to $15,000 awarded to businesses that have been partially closed, or otherwise are open and can demonstrate an impact. A total of 5% of overall funding for the program was able to go toward administrative costs of the economic development organizations administering the grants.

The state of Michigan appropriated the funds through SB 748, which Whitmer signed into law, to support Michigan’s small businesses especially impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Michigan Small Business Survival Grants program was administered by 15 local or nonprofit economic development organizations covering all 83 counties across the state.

One of those EDOs is InvestUP, which had a funding allocation of $2.5 million and served the Upper Peninsula. According to the governor’s office, InvestUP helped 414 businesses and retained 3,221 jobs.

Marty Fittante, CEO of InvestUP, said the group is grateful to state Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township; state Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City; state Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain; state Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette; and state Rep. Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, for their help.

However, Fittante said in a statement, “Unfortunately, although it is not a surprise in light of the how big the need continues to be, the number of applications again far exceeded the grant money that was available. The truth is that nearly all that applied were deserving, and we regret that all could not receive funding as we know our local businesses are the heartbeat of our local economy.

“As we know, funding like this is often times a lifeline for small businesses trying to manage through this unprecedented crisis. We continue to work with our federal and state partners to secure additional resources.”

A full list of grant recipients can be found at www.michiganbusiness.org/about-medc/covid19/survival/.

InvestUP partnered with stakeholders from across the region to solicit and process applications as well as score over 800 applications that were received from around the U.P. The average grant award across all U.P. counties was $5,700.

Wooden Nickel licenses suspended

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission has issued an emergency suspension of the liquor licenses and permits for the Wooden Nickel bar in Marquette.

According to the State Emergency Operations Center, this licensee’s multiple violations of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Emergency Order on Gatherings and Face Masks include:

≤ allowing non-residential, indoor gatherings;

≤ failure to require face coverings for staff and patrons;

≤ exceeding 25% of normal seating capacity; and

≤ allowing indoor dining after the 10 p.m. curfew.

Since September, the MLCC has suspended liquor licenses of a total of 40 establishments throughout the state for violations of the executive and emergency orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Feb. 10, an MLCC commissioner ordered the emergency suspension of the liquor licenses and permits held by Irie Vibes, Inc., regarding the Wooden Nickel, located at 1751 Presque Isle Ave. Specifically, the commission issued an emergency suspension of its Class C license, its specially designated merchant license, and permits for Sunday sales (morning and evening), entertainment and outdoor service.

Wooden Nickel staff is scheduled to appear before an administrative law judge on Friday for a virtual hearing via Zoom to determine whether this summary suspension should continue, or other fines and penalties should be imposed.

The Jan. 13 MDHHS Gatherings and Face Mask Order strictly prohibited licensees from allowing indoor gatherings on their licensed premises. Further, these prohibited gatherings were held without requiring patrons to wear face masks and therefore posed an immediate threat to the health, safety and welfare of the public.

The Jan. 22 MDHHS Gatherings and Face Mask Order allows indoor dining as of Feb. 1 subject to capacity, curfew, face mask, social distancing and other restrictions. Whitmer announced changes on Feb. 4 to allow contact sports to resume, which also said the order regarding indoor dining was in effect through March 29.

Any licensed establishment in violation of the MDHHS emergency order will be held strictly accountable and risk suspension or revocation of its license, the operations center said. All licensees must comply not only with the MDHHS orders, but also with local health department orders and local ordinances regarding reduced occupancy rates and social distancing protocols related to the pandemic.

The public can report any suspected non-compliance issue at an establishment directly to the MLCC by filing a complaint with the MLCC Enforcement Division online or by calling the division’s hotline at 866-893-2121. MLCC’s website at www.michigan.gov/lcc provides information on the MDHHS emergency orders, indoor service restrictions, face mask requirements and frequently asked questions for restaurants and bars.

‘Think Babies Michigan’ campaign begins

The “Think Babies Michigan” campaign has launched with a $1.5 million multiyear grant from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative to improve prenatal-to-age 3 outcomes for kids in the state.

This can help vulnerable families whose situations have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Matt Gillard, president and CEO of Michigan’s Children, in a Wednesday media briefing.

“The entirety of this effort is really focused on making Michigan a better place for low-income families, or lower-income families, to have and raise families, and we know through a variety of measures and ways that the pandemic has impacted working-class families and low-income families much more significantly than it has others,” Gillard said.

He said the federal government is starting to address the situation, noting the need is greater than ever.

“The pandemic has really challenged all of us in society, but it really has challenged the children in lower- and middle-income working families the most,” Gillard said.

High-quality child care will help parents stay at work, which is “critically” needed amid COVID-19, he said.

“What the pandemic has done is really just exacerbated the need that was already there, but made it even more urgent,” Gillard said.

For instance, Denise Smith, implementation director of Hope Starts Here, pointed out that in the Detroit area, essential workers wanting to return to their jobs — who had infants and toddlers — weren’t able to find the necessary child-care slots for their children.

Smith said a preferred option for most families with babies were home-based programs.

“Michigan has seen a decline in this population of our early childhood segment for decades, and COVID just exacerbated all of that,” Smith said.

The “hyper focus” on infants and toddlers will bring attention to what she called the “critical stage” in a child’s development.

“As we think about this collective work, we know that this focus is not only important for those babies and their future, it’s important for their families to be able to take care of their children,” Smith said.

It’s also important, she stressed, for communities and Michigan.

Campaign leaders on Wednesday said their goal was to help increase enrollment and access to high-quality child care, home visiting, early intervention and postpartum care for families with low incomes by 50%, reaching an additional 83,000 children up to age 3 who live in low-income households by 2025.

Think Babies Michigan is led by a collaborative that includes The Early Childhood Investment Corporation, Hope Starts Here: Detroit’s Early Childhood Partnership, Michigan’s Children, Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health, the Michigan League for Public Policy, and parent leaders Meredith Kennedy of the Traverse City area, and Quinn Wright of metro Detroit.

The campaign is part of a partnership with the national campaign created by Zero to Three.

For more information on the plan, visit www.ecic4kids.org/policy-thinkbabiesmi/.

Pictured Rocks Days canceled

The Alger County Chamber of Commerce/Greater Munising Bay Partnership announced on its Facebook page on Wednesday that Pictured Rocks Days will not take place this year.

“After careful consideration, we have decided to cancel Pictured Rocks Days this year, which was scheduled for June 12-13 … Big events that draw thousands of people like Pictured Rocks Days take months of planning and with there still being many uncertainties regarding the coronavirus pandemic, we feel it’s best to hold off another year,” the post reads. “We want to ensure Pictured Rocks Days remains not only a safe event but successful as well. With that said, our office can’t wait to bring back our summer kickoff event next year on June 11-12, 2022.”

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