Saturday, June 6, 2020

East Lansing DDA awards business relief grants, looks to increase restaurant support

May 15, 2020
Downtown East Lansing on April 1, 2020.
Downtown East Lansing on April 1, 2020. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The East Lansing Downtown Development authority, or DDA, awarded 57 businesses with grants through the first round of the Business Relief Program in a virtual meeting Thursday while discussing business support programs including subsidized gift cards and outdoor seating expansion.

According to the press release, each business will receive a $2,500 grant to help address hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The grant program was approved by the DDA in partnership with the Lansing Economic Area Partnership on April 23 to award up to 100 relief grants to DDA eligible businesses in the district. 

A total of 76 applications were received for the first round of BRP grants. DDA criteria eliminated businesses in the city with any kind of delinquency, composing a total of 12 business applicants.

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According to the press release, grant funds are expected to be distributed to the first round of recipients by May 18. The application for the second round of $2,500 BRP grants is expected to open on June 2 and close on June 5 for the remaining $107,500 of discretionary funds approved for the program.

“Downtown East Lansing businesses are the very fabric which defines our community and the experience enjoyed by residents and visitors. They are the very heart and soul of our town,” East Lansing DDA Chair Peter Dewan said in a statement. “Today, the DDA unanimously renewed our support to downtown East Lansing businesses as they manage during this global pandemic."

Gift Card Program proposal

draft for the consideration of a small business Gift Card Program outlines plans to support eligible small businesses by providing immediate cash from bulk purchasing of gift cards of up to $2,000. 

Eligible businesses would be able to apply online and a GCP Review Committee would review applications. The DDA would likewise establish an e-commerce site to administer the distribution and resell of gift cards to the general public on behalf of the small business owners, the draft states.

According to the drafted plan, gift cards would not be permitted to be resold until July 1, or an earlier date agreed upon with the business. This would ensure businesses can hold onto cash during the COVID-19 crisis before honoring gift cards and providing future repayment in the form of goods and services.

Future criteria will need to be established to account for GCP reimbursement in the case of business closures, or purchases may need to understand the risks of non-redemption according to the draft. 

Expanded outdoor seating

This expanded dining proposal would close an area of Albert Avenue east of the entrance to the new parking structure through M.A.C Ave for outdoor dining, Community and Economic Development Department Operations Analyst Heather Pope said.

Picnic tables would be placed 12 feet apart within the designated area. Pathways would be placed and marked to encourage social distancing and handwashing stations would be placed on-site.

According to Pope, the Department of Public Works is working on together a design layout of how this would work. The team will meet again to ensure the need for police and fire services are considered as well as the need for apt sanitation measures.

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