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Heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition

Michigan Approves $20 Million In Small Business Relief In Response to COVID-19

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Image credit: Sascha Raiyn

State funding will go to businesses with under 50 employees. But state officials are pushing President Donald Trump for expanded unemployment insurance and aid as several states have issued “stay at home” orders.

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Twenty million dollars in emergency funding for small businesses has been approved by the State of Michigan.

The money will go towards a loan fund and a grant program for businesses with less than 50 employees.

There’s about 117,000 businesses that are impacted by these emergency orders.” — Jeff Donofrio, Michigan Department of Labor and Economy Opportunity

Half of that money will go towards small business relief grants, while the rest will fund a loan program. Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity director Jeff Donofrio says more efforts to help local businesses are in the works.

There’s about 117,000 businesses that are impacted by these emergency orders,” says Donofrio. “And while we’re not going to be able to help all of them immediately, we’re trying to put out some emergency relief for those most in need.” ​

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Seeking Help for Laid-Off, 1099 Workers

He points to efforts underway by state officials to ease the burden on small businesses. 

The treasury here at the State of Michigan has also done some things to postpone sales use and holding tax payments for small businesses. What would’ve been originally due today is now delayed by a month,” he says.

Donofrio says the department is calling on President Donald Trump to declare a Major Disaster Declaration under the Federal Emergency Management Act for the State of Michigan. He says doing so would expand unemployment benefits to cover the likes of 1099 employees, which covers contractors and ride sharing app drivers. (Are you facing financial hardship? See if you qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage during the crisis.)

He recommends businesses that have to lay-off employees designate them for temporary leave without pay. He says that allows workers to claim federal resources while preventing employers from paying a penalty.


Applying for Unemployment

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order to temporarily expand eligibility for unemployment benefits, effective immediately and until Tuesday, April 14 at 11:59 PM.

Under this order, unemployment would be expanded to:

  • Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill. 
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off. 
  • First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19. 

Access to benefits for unemployed workers will also be extended:

  • Benefits will be increased from 20 to 26 weeks. 
  • The application eligibility period will be increased from 14 to 28 days 
  • The normal in-person registration and work search requirements will be suspended.  

Eligible employees should apply for unemployment benefits online at Michigan.gov/UIA  or 1-866-500-0017. A factsheet on how to apply for benefits can be found here.  


Alex McLenon, Associate Producer

Alex McLenon is an Associate Producer with 101.9 WDET. McLenon has many interests; from cars and sports to arts and science. During college he amassed four years of experience as a Zamboni driver and acknowledges spending far too much money on his CD collection.

Follow @alexmclenon

This post is a part of Coronavirus in Michigan.

101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR Station, is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it's related illness COVID-19, in Michigan. 

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