Microbusinesses, often immigrant-owned and employing just a small workforce, are widely touted as lifelines in communities, serving critical needs in often-overlooked neighborhoods. They are also the most likely to be hit hardest by the economic effects of the widespread social distancing imposed this week in Michigan and across the United States in response to the coronavirus pandemic public health crisis.
In an effort to help these businesses make payroll, pay rent, and cover other short-term operational costs, TechTown has opened up applications today in English, Spanish, and Arabic for its newly-established Detroit Small Business Stabilization Fund. A Bengali-language application is also forthcoming. The application also does not ask about immigration status.
Through the program, low-income, Detroit-based brick and mortar microbusinesses — those that employ 10 or fewer workers — can apply for grants of up to $5,000. Food trucks also qualify under this criteria. Businesses located in neighborhoods at high risk for displacement will also be given preference.
Bridget Barnes-Espinosa, a consultant with the Southwest Detroit Business Association and other business support groups, is disseminating information to affected small businesses.
“There’s going be no foreseeable support for undocumented workers,” she says. “While it’s scary and there’s not a lot we can do to support an individual family’s cash flow, what we can do is support the businesses that serve these communities.”
Detroit’s immigrant small-business community is a significant contributor to the local economy. A 2017 report published by the New American Economy says that nearly 1,400 self-employed immigrants in Detroit generated $15.5 million in business revenue in 2014, more than twice their share of the population.
Yet, they are uniquely vulnerable in other ways, with language and financial literacy barriers and a workforce that may lack legal immigration status. That makes communicating available resources a challenge, Espinosa says. To overcome some of these setbacks, she and others are planning to make phone calls and possibly visit area restaurants, taquerias, shops, and other businesses in the coming days to get the word out face-to-face (or at least more directly).
The fund — modeled after a similar effort in Seattle — was created in partnership with the city of Detroit, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and Invest Detroit. Application instructions are available by clicking here.
The fund is supported with a $100,000 investment from the Quicken Loans Community Fund, Invest Detroit, and individual donations. TechTown is working toward raising $250,000, of which more than $226,000 has been raised as of Friday afternoon. Those interested in making a donation can do so here.
In addition to the requirement that qualifying businesses employ 10 or fewer workers, applicants’ household incomes must be low- or moderate-income and they must be able to provide proof of income based on 2018 or 2019 tax returns. Owners must have a social security number or taxpayer-identification number. They have to have experienced a loss of income due to the coronavirus and they must also have a physical location. Funding will go directly to the business entity. A valid bank account number, Michigan business entity identification number, and employer identification number (EIN) will also be required. Click here for the Michigan business entity search to look up your Michigan business entity ID number.
This story is developing and we are making every effort to provide Metro Detroiters with the most up to date information. If you know of other ways that residents can access food during the coronavirus pandemic crisis, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was made possible by the Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund, a project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, that’s working to increase quality journalism and help better inform communities.
Author: Serena Maria Daniels
Serena Maria Daniels is the co-founder and head chingona of Tostada Magazine. She is an award-winning journalist based in Detroit and specializes on the intersection of food, identity, and culture.
Find her on Twitter and Instagram @serenamaria36!