City of Detroit Announces Multimillion-Dollar Small Business Coronavirus Relief Fund

Almost 40% of Americans wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency with cash, savings or a credit card charge that they could quickly pay off, according to a 2019 Federal Reserve survey. However, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis is showing that many small businesses have cash-flow issues as well and essentially live the equivalent of “paycheck to paycheck.” Steep declines in consumer demand can easily tip them into the red and, perhaps, failure.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise throughout the country, so does its impact on our economy. From stock market dips to decreased foot traffic in thriving neighborhoods, this pandemic is devastating all facets of life. With Gov. Whitmer’s “shelter in place” order many people are forced to stay home. Companies are putting employees on leave, slashing salaries and some are even forced to shut down.

Small businesses in Detroit are being bombarded with COVID-19 related issues that they could have never foreseen and therefore had no plan in place.   Small, independent, local, and family-owned businesses are posting social media appeals to encourage people to keep supporting them. Restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, and other types of businesses have been ordered to close or shift, where possible, to takeout and delivery only.

Many businesses may have to close their doors over the next several weeks. Closures could be temporary; in some cases, they might turn out to be permanent.

While most have never experienced anything like this before it is imperative that something be done to mitigate the damage. It is vital that our federal and state officials enact short- and long-term policies that will offset these effects, particularly for our small business community whose success is critical to our nation’s economic health. 

A handsome young man standing in the entrance to his store

The City of Detroit, Detroit City Council and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) today announced a $3.1 million COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund to help businesses throughout Detroit survive the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis. This is the first phase of a massive assistance program that addresses the cashflow problem resulting from Executive Order 2020-20 — Governor Whitmer’s temporary restriction on places of public accommodation.

Two sources contributed to this fund — $2.3 million from the Casino Development Fund and $800,000 in reprogrammed funds from the Economic Development Corporation of the City of Detroit (EDC). The application opens at midnight, April 1.

“After ensuring the safety of our people, sustaining our neighborhood businesses is our next priority,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Thanks to the quick actions of the Mayor, City Council, MEDC, Michigan Strategic Fund, EDC and the DEGC, eligible Detroit businesses will have access to cash to help keep them afloat until the crisis passes.”

Eligible businesses can receive from $2,500 up to $10,000 in grant money. The size of the grant will depend primarily on three criteria: amount of demonstrated net income loss due to COVID-19, age of business, and number of employees.

In order to qualify for grant support, businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • The business is among the type outlined in Michigan Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order restricting the use of places of public accommodation, which includes businesses such as restaurants, bars of all types, coffee houses, theaters, museums, fitness centers, casinos, and other places of public accommodation.
  • The company is operating in a commercial space with 50 or fewer employees, with $1 million or less in net income.
  • The business demonstrates the need for working capital to support its payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, or other similar expenses as the result of COVID-19.

“Every city is only as great as their small business community,” said Pierre Batton, DEGC vice president for small business services. “Our neighborhoods are working too hard to lose the progress that’s been made – small business being a vital part of that progress. Bills don’t stop when businesses shut their doors. By infusing $4.7 million into these businesses now, we’re helping them survive the crippling economic impact of COVID-19.”

Detroit small business owners are excited at the prospect of some form of assistance and are grateful that the DEGC is providing help in the form of grants that will not have to be repaid.

“I applaud the DEGC and Kevin Johnson for reaching out to their networks and raising money to provide assistance to Detroit’s Small Business Community,” said Nya Marshall, owner of Ivy Kitchen + Cocktails.  “Most of the assistance available is through a loan process and, with businesses barely making payroll, it seems counterintuitive to take on more debt. The DEGC realizing that grant funds are needed in this time of uncertainty shows their level of understanding and compassion for small businesses.”


Applications will be accepted, and awards will be made on a rolling basis subject to availability of funds. Cash payments may be used for regularly occurring business expenses such as payroll, rent, mortgage, and utilities. Full eligibility requirements and other program guidelines can be found at the DEGC COVID-19 relief at

For individual business or grant application questions or assistance, please email


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