Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated incorrectly that the resolution was adopted on July 1.
In a unanimous vote on June 25, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution proposed by Commissioner Angela Powell (D-Pontiac) that establishes the “Policy for Economically and Social Disadvantaged Small Business Disproportionately Impacted by COVID-19.” The policy was implemented to help small businesses located in Pontiac, Southfield, Lathrup Village, Oak Park and Royal Oak Charter Township recover from the novel coronavirus outbreak. It ensures that at least $5 million of the overall $32 million funds from the CARES Act will be reserved for the economic recovery of these specific communities.
“This policy protects businesses that are owned by and serve some of the most vulnerable people in the county so they have an opportunity to be successful during and after this crisis,” Powell said. “We continually learn more about what the novel coronavirus pandemic means for Oakland County businesses and residents from all backgrounds, and I have been happy to work with my fellow commissioners and county administration to quickly adapt programs that are already in place.”
Powell has been approached by several small business owners and agencies representing small businesses for assistance. She is also helped by two local organizations, Tameka Ramsey and Associates and the Pontiac Chamber of Commerce, that report on the status of local small businesses. Many of the businesses Powell has spoken to were not qualifying for the grants and loans being issued by the government, and they were primarily people of color.
“We have departments in the county that have no minority workers. Minorities who live in those types of cities that will come and try to get assistance are always pushed out — not offered the assistance they were seeking,” Powell said.
In the latest set of statistics by Oakland County’s COVID-19 Dashboard, Pontiac, Southfield, Lathrup Village, Oak Park and Royal Oak Charter Township account for more than 31 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 28 percent of Oakland County’s COVID-19 related deaths, despite these communities only representing 13 percent of Oakland County’s actual population.
“Certain areas of the county, and the small businesses in those areas, have felt an even greater negative impact due to COVID-19 because they are already statistically significantly economically disadvantaged compared to the median Oakland County household,” Powell said. “I’m proud that together with the EDCA, we’ll be able to ensure that they are not overlooked when we are awarding CARES Act funding through stabilization grants.”
Oakland County’s Department of Economic Development and Community Affairs is in the process of developing qualifications and criteria to participate in the program. The department will be looking at eligible business’ history of economic and/or social disadvantage, the location of the business to see if it serves a low-income community and if the community has been impacted disproportionately by COVID-19 mitigation measures.
Legal assistance, financial guidance and several other types of help for the small businesses during this time will also be provided by the Oakland County Board of Commissions. Applications to participate in the program will be posted online to the Oakland County Economic Department page in the coming weeks. During the grace period to apply, a panel will be held consisting of staff, elected officials, and community leaders for a Q&A session.
“The commissioners and the executive office have worked very well as far as talking about things that our constituents need in the county. Now that the commission is led by Democrats, I do think that it is another reason why we are allowed to do more diverse things in the county,” Powell said.
For more information about COVID-19 related business relief in Oakland County, visit oakgov.com/covid/businessrelief/Pages/default.aspx.