KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Relief is coming to some businesses in West Michigan that are wondering how to pay their bills during the stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, pandemic.
Pete Comensoli, owner of Comensoli's Italian Bistro and Bar, said it's been a challenge to adapt to a carry-out only menu.
"Our entire concept was built around causal dining, which means our customers come to us and they sit in our place and they experience our restaurant," Comensoli said.
He said many businesses may be trying to figure out how to keep the lights on in the coming weeks as bills become due.
"Restaurants are remaining open now, but come April when rent is due, when utilities are due, come later in the year when taxes are due, all of these things are going to create a tremendous burden on small business," he said.
The Michigan Economic Development fund, the 21st Century Fund, has allocated $10 million in grant money to help out across the state.
Southwest Michigan First is managing $800,000 of that grant money and hopes to distribute it in early April.
Southwest Michigan First CEO Ron Kitchen said that they will be granting up to $10,000 each to small employers impacted by the Michigan stay-at-home order in Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Berrien, Calhoun, Van Buren, Cass, and Branch counties.
He mentioned bars, restaurants, hotels, salons and barber shops as impacted businesses.
"Really it's just intended to help those companies stay alive," Kitchens said.
According to Kitchens, it's important companies apply for the grant money quickly, so they can distribute it. Businesses can call Southwest Michigan First at 269-553-9588 or contact them online.
"$800,000 is a lot of money, but it won't go that far as hard hit as our companies are." Kitchen said.
Comensoli also urged his fellow small business owners to apply.
"It is going to be a vital part of keeping the lights on and the business open and hopefully reducing the number of businesses that will shutter permanently as a result of this downturn," he said.