Oakland County plans $10 million program to aid restaurants

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News
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Oakland County officials announced a $10 million program to support restaurants struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aid categories will include general operational assistance, help to adapt facilities for outside service, and assistance to reopen safely, Oakland County Executive David Coulter said. 

Oakland County Executive David Coulter addresses the media as Sean Carlson, deputy county executive and Royal Oak Brewery owner Drew Ciora, listen.

"This is not a permanent solution," said Coulter as he discussed the program at a Thursday afternoon news conference outside the Royal Oak Brewery, along with county commissioners chairman David Woodward, deputy county executive Sean Carlson and brewery owner Drew Ciora.

"We will be fighting this virus for some time ... this is a bridge."

If approved by the county board on Monday, checks might go out to about 1,000 bars and restaurants that have already applied and been approved for pandemic relief help.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter addresses the media as Royal Oak Brewery owner Drew Ciora, Sean Carlson, deputy county executive and David Woodward, county commissioners chairman, listen.

The program — involving $7 million in federal Oakland County CARES Act allocation and $3 million from the county's general fund — comes as negotiations in Congress for federal relief to individuals, businesses and state and local governments have stalled, and as a state order banning dine-in eating at restaurants remains in effect at least through Dec. 8.

"This is one of the last programs using our CARES Act funds, which is why it is important for Congress to approve additional relief," Coulter said. "This virus is not going away, and we need additional resources for recovery, COVID mitigation and vaccine preparation."

Coulter noted about 65,000 employees have been impacted by lockdowns and restrictions.

Woodward, D-Royal Oak, echoed Coulter's remarks and said county elected officials will "do everything and anything to help" bars and restaurants survive.

The $10 million county program, which Coulter likened to a "lifeline," proposes:

  • $7 million to be divided among about 1,000 businesses to cover expenses for perishable food, rent, mortgage payments and labor costs. Under the federal CARES Act, the county must spend the funds by Dec. 30.
  • $2 million from the county general fund will help businesses adapt facilities for outside service. The county is obtaining 8-foot-by-12-foot, greenhouse-type structures, electric heaters, propane heaters and more.
  • $1 million to help businesses reopen safely, including personal protection equipment, hand-sanitizing stations and computer software that businesses can use to contract trace customers who might have been exposed to the virus.

On Wednesday, a Grand Rapids federal judge denied a Michigan restaurant association's request to quash the ban on indoor dining as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations remain high statewide.

In response, the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association said it would focus on stopping the order from being extended further. 

The owner of the Andiamo restaurant brand, Joe Vicari, urged fellow restaurant owners earlier this week to ignore the state's order if the restaurant association's lawsuit was unsuccessful. 

As of Thursday, there have been 380,343 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 9,580  deaths in Michigan since state officials discovered the first cases in March. Hospitalizations and case counts remain high as the state experiences a prolonged second wave of the virus.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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