Mott Foundation grants $262,500 to Genesee Chamber Foundation to help Black-owned businesses in Flint reopen as restrictions ease

Illustration shows the hand of a black person turning over the a sign hanging on a business door that states "Reopening for Business."
The Mott Foundation grant will will add support to the Restart Flint & Genesee Grant Program specifically to help Black-owned businesses in the city of Flint. Illustration: Craig Kelley Jr.

Flint, Michigan — The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation granted $262,500 to support Black-owned businesses in Flint that were closed under Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The grant was made to the Genesee Chamber Foundation, a supporting organization of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, and will provide grants of up to $5,000 each to help owners safely reopen their businesses.

On May 6, the Chamber announced its Restart Flint & Genesee Grant Program, launched with $200,000 from the Consumers Energy Foundation to help business owners across Genesee County. The Mott Foundation grant will add support to that program specifically for businesses owned by Black people in the city of Flint.

“As the Mott Foundation responds to the pandemic, our top priority is helping our hometown — especially the Black community, which has been hardest hit by the virus,” said Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation. “We know businesses want to protect their staff and customers as they reopen, and the changes they’ll need to make will require money at a time when their revenues are way down. We hope this grant will help them get up and running the way they want to.”

The Chamber has established the following eligibility criteria for the grants funded through support from Mott:

  • The business was operating prior to the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order.
  • The business is majority Black owned.
  • The business is locally owned. No national franchises or chains.
  • The business is an LLC or S-Corp located within the city of Flint.
  • The business has no more than 50 employees.
  • Operation of the business was significantly impacted by the executive order.

Priority will be given to businesses in industries hardest hit by closure due to COVID-19, such as salons, child care facilities, retail businesses and others. The business owner must demonstrate economic hardship, providing a narrative that describes challenges faced, proposed use of funds and how the business is critical to developing a sense of place for residents.

“The Mott Foundation has demonstrated for nearly a century that Flint’s well-being is at the heart of its philanthropic mission. Once again it has stepped forward with timely and much-needed support — in this case through the Restart Flint & Genesee Grant Program,” said Chamber CEO Tim Herman. “These additional funds will enable us to extend financial support to many more businesses in Flint that need it as they prepare to reopen and operate their small businesses under the strict guidelines meant to protect public health.”

There will be a single application process for the Restart Flint & Genesee Grant Program. If a business does not meet eligibility criteria for the funding made possible through the Mott grant, it will be considered under the broader criteria for grants made possible through funding from the Consumers Energy Foundation.

An informational webinar — scheduled for Friday, May 15, at 10 a.m. — will cover program details, application criteria and deadlines, and how the funds may be used. The webinar will be shared on the Chamber’s Facebook Live and YouTube Live channels.

Funding under the Restart Flint & Genesee Grant Program will support expenses directly associated with activities and purchases to reopen a business under guidelines and requirements for physical distancing and safety of clients/customers.

The items needed to safely reopen a business include — but are not limited to — personal protective equipment for staff, cleaning services and supplies to deep clean facilities, contactless payment systems and physical improvements to a business to create space for physical distancing.

Grant dollars focusing on the Black business community show care and support for those that have been impacted significantly, said George Wilkinson, president of NorthGate and a member of the Greater Flint Coronavirus Taskforce on Racial Inequities.

“Everyone has been affected. But just as this virus has wreaked havoc on the African American community, it has wreaked havoc on the African American business community,” said Wilkinson. “This support will help them significantly to move forward. It’s the salons, barber shops, the child care facilities, all of those very small businesses with less than 50 employees that are impacted the most and don’t always have access to the other support. This grant says ‘We see you. We recognize that you don’t have the resources others have to embolden you and provide help during this time.’”

Using the funds for items to help the businesses open safely is extremely important, Wilkinson said.

“As president of NorthGate, I’m buying PPE, and it is no small endeavor. Those dollars are going to really be appreciated and, most of all, be impactful so people can live to serve their community like they have for many years,” he said. “No one saw this coming. Now they can see themselves getting back to serving their customers.”

Editor’s Note: On June 3, 2020, we updated this story to clarify that all Black business owners in Flint — not just those who identify as African American — are eligible to apply.