The Regional Economic Development Organization, LEAP, has partnered with Ingham County Sunrise to provide economic relief to small businesses throughout the county since COVID-19 struck.
Shortly after the approval of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, LEAP and Ingham County bonded in an $11 million contract. They began to devise recovery plans for communities across the county in response to the pandemic. From there, Ingham County Sunrise was born. The program was constructed for the sole purpose of supplying financial relief to small, underrepresented businesses to improve their resiliency in the face of COVID-19.
“I think Ingham County really recognized the immediate emergent need that COVID-19 has caused and took action because it’s one of those things where if you don’t act, we never know how things would land,” said LEAP representative Dillon Rush.
After taking care of administrative fees, Ingham County Sunrise was able to allocate an estimated $8.5 million in competitive grants and $2 million for long-term assistance. With a whopping 1,100 applicants to consider, the program committed to dispersing relief grants based on three priorities: (1) to supply relief to businesses which are able to demonstrate severe negative impact, (2) select applicants who are geographically distributed throughout the business community, (3) assist underrepresented communities with heavy impact.
Collectively, LEAP and Ingham County Sunrise paid 630 impact grants. Of those grants, 72% went to underrepresented businesses that expressed severe need. There was no shortage of diversity among the businesses. Sunrise awarded grants to neighborhood centers, bakeries, dance studios, etc.
Moving forward, with a second tranche of funds coming, LEAP hopes to continue to be a resource for the economic sustainability of Ingham County. “We have big plans and want to continue to think of super smart ways to use the money for further economic development,” said Bob Trezise, president and CEO of LEAP.
There is currently $444,000 in unspent funds from the original contract. With two more programs lined up, the LEAP organization shows no signs of slowing down. Along with the technical assistance and successive learning programs coming, the organization has other resourceful ideas pending upon county approval.
“We want Ingham County to be a thriving, prosperous community and these funds have to be utilized to create programs and pathways to get that for all people,” said LEAP’s Chief Equity Development Officer Tony Willis.