Organizations serving businesses of color are asking Kent County to redirect funding to them

Jun 30, 2020

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A few weeks ago, Kent County Board of Commissioners received a little more than $114 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. It then allocated $25 million from the CARES Act to the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce to support small businesses. While Guillermo Cisneros from the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce applauds these efforts, he would have liked to see some of these funds directed to those organizations working directly with minority owned businesses.

“We are the organizations that have boots on the ground, we know our businesses, and we have the  capacity to distribute these resources.”

Mandy Bolter, chair of the Kent County Board of Commissioners, says she believes the Grand Rapids Chamber has the capacity to manage the funds and the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Rapids Area of Black Businesses do not.

“(We) chose them because we could move as quickly as possible to get the funds to business owners who had told us that: “if I have to go another month without some help I might close.””

Back in April, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce received funds from the county to help support small businesses and more than 50% of the funds went to small businesses of color but Jamiel Robinson from GRAAB says this is because of his and Cisneros’ connections with local minority owned businesses. 

“And then what the chamber of commerce then did was represent to the county that it had the capacity but that capacity was only based upon myself and the Hispanic Chamber’s assistance with that.”  

WGVU reached out to the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.  It declined to comment on the situation. The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce is receiving $750,000 dollars to manage the $25 million dollars. Each partner organization is receiving between $20,000 to $40,000 as compensation.