City of Kalamazoo and United Way have a new grant program to help small businesses pay for PPE

Small businesses located in the City of Kalamazoo may apply to be reimbursed for up to $2,500 worth of personal protective equipment, care of the City and the United Way.

“Small businesses are shouldering a huge financial burden due to the pandemic, and many don’t have the resources to hold on long-term,” Chris Sargent, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, said in a press release. “We’re grateful that the City has stepped up to help once again and is counting on our grant-making expertise to get that help to the businesses that need it most.”

The City of Kalamazoo and the regional United Way are partnering to help city-based businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The two have created a fund to help those businesses keep their workers and customers safe by helping them pay for such things as protective face masks, face shields, and latex gloves. Grants also may be used to recover other expenses that reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and keep businesses open.

Other eligible costs include: routine environmental cleaning; education and training materials on safe practices for employees; signage and informational materials on safe practices for employees and customers; daily in-person or virtual health checks (including symptom and temperature screening before entering a facility); changes to work areas, processes and procedures; modifications to ventilation systems; and other purchases that promote healthy and human safety.

The fund, called the Kalamazoo Small Business Health Protection Grants fund, provides reimbursement grants of up to $2,500 to qualified small businesses. The City has provided the United Way with enough resources to award $2,500 to at least 75 eligible small businesses.

“The City of Kalamazoo is here to help and proud to support these efforts to keep our community safe,” Antonio Mitchell, Community Investment Manager for the City of Kalamazoo, said in the release. “By preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Kalamazoo, these investments protect all of us and allow us to continue supporting Kalamazoo’s local businesses safely.”

He said the City knows small businesses are the lifeblood of the local economy, providing jobs for thousands of residents.

Eligible businesses must:

• Have 50 or fewer full-time employees;

• Be located within the city limits of Kalamazoo;

•Have $2.5 million or less in annual revenue;

• Be current on local and state taxes;

• Be certified to do business as of Feb. 15, 2020;

• Be in business a minimum of one year prior to the date of application.

“Helping these businesses succeed is good for the local economic base, good for financially vulnerable families, and good for strengthening a more diverse and equitable foundation for businesses in Kalamazoo,” Sargent said. “United Way is proud to be the key connection for local small businesses to get help and get through these challenging times.”

Earlier this year, the City and the United Way partnered on the Kalamazoo Small Business Loan Fund, a fund that was established with a $2 million grant from the Foundation For Excellence. It provided low-interest loans to help small businesses pay employees during the statewide shutdown.
According to the United Way, the fund has provided 76 loans worth more than $1.35 million. 

Those interested in applying for the Kalamazoo Small Business Health Protection Grant or the Kalamazoo Small Business Loan Fund, may do so by visiting here and select one of those options. They may also email smallbusiness@uwbckr.org with questions.
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Al Jones is a freelance writer who has worked for many years as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the Project Editor for On the Ground Kalamazoo.