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Oakland County announces small business stabilization fund

The Detroit News

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter announced a $3 million small-business stabilization fund to protect those firms during the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to unprecedented numbers of unemployment claims. 

Coulter, while urging residents to follow Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order "strictly," said he recognizes the financial impact of the pandemic, which has resulted in 2,856 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 60 deaths statewide as of Thursday afternoon.

"I know also that our residents are feeling tremendous financial stress,” he said, referring to a "staggering" number of claims for unemployment benefits caused by businesses shutting down to slow the disease's spread.

Last week, 23,799 Oakland County resident applied for jobless benefits, said Jennifer Llewellyn, director of Oakland County Michigan Works! By comparison, she said, claims in the county averaged 6,701 a month during the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009.

Wayne County had just over 24,000 new jobless claims last week, while Macomb County had 22,542, Llewellyn said. Statewide, the number of claims was more than 128,000,

She said those who need to file for benefits can do so online at mich.gov/uia or call 1-866-500-0017.

“There’s a significant number of callers contacting the Unemployment Insurance Agency at this time," she added, urging people to call late at night or early in the morning. 

“As we navigate this health crisis, we’re also working diligently to navigate the financial crisis that’s facing our businesses and residents,” she said.

While calling unemployment insurance a "critical lifeline," Coulter said job one is stopping COVID-19.

“It’s vial first and foremost that we control the spread of the virus and prevent deaths. ... getting the pandemic under control is the best thing we can do for the economy," he said.

Coulter said the fund is being developed with help from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. David Woodward, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, said the panel would consider approving it early next week.