A new rent and mortgage assistance program is being offered to help downtown Howell businesses navigate the COVID-19 crisis.

Howell Main Street Inc., DDA, Lake Trust Credit Union, and the law firm Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney have joined forces to create the Small Business Rent and Mortgage Assistance Program. The program is specific to helping businesses in the Howell Downtown Development Authority (DDA) district cover their rent or mortgage payments. Grants are available up to $2,000 total and do not have to be repaid in the future. Howell Main Street Inc. Chief Operating Officer Kate Litwin says any time a small business has to close or drastically reduce operations unexpectedly; the losses are immediate and long-lasting. She says covering one rent or mortgage payment can alleviate a small business owner’s stress and help stretch a budget a little bit further – adding they’re thankful to their community partners for their willingness to work together to help small businesses weather these uncertain times.

Litwin tells WHMI they wanted to make the program as easy as possible for businesses that have been impacted. She says the grants are to help businesses offset rent or mortgage expenses but also hopefully be able to use those funds for payroll or other necessities going on that they need to cover. Litwin says they’re trying to expedite the process and it’s a very simple online application. She noted that there are so many businesses in the downtown district that are really struggling right now so they hope to help as many as possible with their funding availability. Litwin says everyone is hurting and the most recent shutdown has affected most every business in their district. She says some might have a little more in reserve while others are worried about how to make that next rent payment. Litwin says it was impossible for anyone to prepare for a crisis of this magnitude so business owners are struggling and nervous and looking at every assistance opportunity out there. She says luckily there is funding coming from the state and federal government and some other sources but all of those funds will be limited as well. Litwin said that was really their impetus behind the new program - how can they do something quickly, eliminate some of the red tape, provide a good level of assistance and make the most impact.

Applications are now being accepted online and will be reviewed on a first come, first serve basis with priority given to businesses forced to close due to Executive Order or other governmental restrictions. Litwin says funding is limited so they recommend everyone apply as quickly as possible and they anticipate it will go fast based on the number of businesses in need. While funding is limited this round, officials are working to secure funding for another round. It’s anticipated the funds will be expended quickly, so Litwin says they’ll be looking for other additional funding sources to keep the program going and provide assistance. Litwin says if anyone in the community wants to get involved, if they have a company or corporation or want to make an individual donation, they can contact her at the DDA office. She says they’ll be happy to discuss how everyone can partner together to provide this assistance and keep the funding going.

Howell Main Street and the DDA will continue to provide businesses up-to-date information about all other relief options provided at the state and federal levels so they can take advantage of programs as they become available. Lake Trust Credit Union is also offering a variety of programs for business assistance. Business owners are encouraged to call 888-267-7200 to discuss options. More information on the program is available through the provided link.