TechTown targets ‘most vulnerable’ small businesses with new round of COVID-19 financial assistance

Businesses that tend to get left out of major city, state, and federal relief efforts — service businesses, freelancers, makers, and home-based businesses — as well as small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park can apply for a grant up to $5,000 through the TechTown Stabilization Fund, funded by the New Economy Initiative and Bank of America.

Applications open at 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 14. The application period closes at noon Friday, April 17. Awardees will be notified via email before April 30.

NEI donated $500,000 to the fund to be distributed by TechTown. Bank of America has also contributed $75,000 to the fund; both organizations are providing additional support for technical assistance in addition to what TechTown provides.

“This will give our smallest of small businesses an opportunity to access dollars to assist them in this challenging time,” NEI Director Pamela Lewis said in a release. “This fund is the perfect resource for businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park that are outside of the requirements of state dollars.”

The grants evolved out of TechTown’s Detroit Small Business Stabilization Fund. As part of that program — which was supported by lead donors Quicken Loans Community Fund and Desai Sethi Family Foundation as well as DTE Energy Foundation, Google, Invest Detroit, JPMorgan Chase, and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation along with over 100 individual donors — more than 350 out of 500 small businesses received financial assistance.

With the initial round of funding, TechTown CEO Ned Staebler says “we knew that we were missing an important group of folks,” such as home-based businesses, makers with Etsy shops, caterers, and more, as well as businesses based in Hamtramck and Highland Park.

“These are some of the most vulnerable businesses. They have the smallest margins and have the least amount of cash on hand. And we want to ensure that they are getting some of the same opportunities to get assistance that the slightly larger businesses do.”

In a city like Detroit, “it’s imperative that we save as many [small businesses] as we can,” Staebler continues. “Especially in a place like Detroit, entrepreneurship and small businesses are the way to break cycles of intergenerational poverty, to generate wealth, and reduce racial disparities in economics. And it would be a shame to see all the gains we've made in that regard wiped away because of this pandemic.”

Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • The business owner’s household income must be low- or moderate-income (less than 80% of the area median income). Business owners must provide proof of household income based on their 2018 or 2019 tax returns.
  • Business owners will need to provide their Social Security Number (SSN) OR Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
  • Businesses must be for-profit. Nonprofit organizations are not eligible.
  • The business must have 10 employees/contractors or less.
  • The business must have a business address in Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park.
  • The business must have experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19.
  • Grants may be used to cover the day-to-day operating expenses of the business, such as rent, payroll, utility bills or losses due to destabilizing events.



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Read more articles by Dorothy Hernandez.

Dorothy Hernandez is a freelance writer and editor who frequently writes about food at the intersection of culture and business. She has contributed to NPR, Midwest Living magazine, Eater, and a variety of other publications. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @dorothy_lynn_h.