$11 million in COVID-19 grants en route to Greater Lansing 

LEAP to focus on social equity in fourth round of business grants 

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WEDNESDAY, May 5 — Hundreds of businesses will soon be eligible to apply for $11 million in grants through the American Rescue Plan following approval from the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. 

The Lansing Economic Area Partnership will administer the competitive grant process. President and CEO Bob Trezise said the federal cash will serve as a bridge “for a number of months” while local businesses continue to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Specific eligibility requirements are incomplete but Trezise said he hopes to get the money into the hands of restaurants and childcare service organizations as quickly as possible. Other eligible areas will include microbusiness, retail, nonprofit entities and entertainment venues. 

The $11 million comes from a total of $56.7 million provided to the county under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which passed in March. The package was meant to jumpstart the economy and support communities impacted by the pandemic. Under the law, half of that cash must be released to the county within 60 days of the legislation’s March 11 passage. The other half must be sent to the county not more than 12 months after the first payment is made. 

The catch, for county officials, was where they could spend millions of dollars.  

Usually, officials would have considered using the windfall to fund vital services such as road repair and healthcare delivery. But the law limits the use of the money to infrastructure related removal of pipes, addition of sewer systems or installation of rural high speed internet. It also allows the cash to be distributed to local businesses or individuals burdened by the pandemic. 

This will be the fourth funding opportunity for local businesses offered through LEAP since the pandemic hit last March. Whether more grant cash and other support will ultimately be necessary will rely on whether or not the pandemic can be brought under control, Trezise said. 

“We have a database of 1,000 businesses owned by underserved communities,” Trezise added. 

That database was built from applicants in previous funding opportunities offered by the agency. 

Reaching underserved communities is a key directive from the commission. LEAP is required to make sure the cash flows to underserved communities with an eye towards racial equity. Trezise said focusing on micro-enterprises — essentially small businesses owned and operated by one person — will also assist LEAP in directly addressing equity issues in Greater Lansing. 

“The majority of those businesses are owned by underserved and under-represented community members,” Trezise said. “It’s important to help them.” 

LEAP hopes to accept grant applications from mid-June to mid-July and dole them out over three monthly installments in August, September and October. Plans are still being made. 

“Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, and providing this much-needed support could be critical to the survival of our businesses and the communities they support,” said Ingham County Commissioner Emily Stivers. 

Commissioners also approved a $1.4 million payout to the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. The marketing agency is funded in large part by a tax on hotel and motel rentals, which have been down amid lockdowns and pandemic-related travel restrictions. The Bureau receives 80% of the cash raised; The payout is designed to make the agency whole. 

Commission Chairman Bryan Crenshaw said the county is negotiating with two local nonprofits — Capital Area Community Services and Capital Area Housing Partnership — to receive and distribute more federal dollars to support and assist individuals impacted by the pandemic. 

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