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Work Share Program Will Help City of Kalamazoo Retain Employees and Address Budget Deficit

The City of Kalamazoo will participate in the federal Unemployment Insurance Agency Work Share Program to address part of an expected $1.2 million budget deficit related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is estimated to save the City approximately $500,000 in personnel costs.

The Work Share program will allow the City to retain all staff by reducing working hours where possible and providing partial unemployment benefits to offset lost wages. Participating city employees will reduce their work weeks by up to 50% starting Monday, May 18 thru Friday, July 24. 165 employees will participate in the program, making up roughly 25% of the City’s workforce. Participating employees will retain their health insurance and other benefits.

“The people who work for the City show up for this community every day, whether there is a pandemic or not,” said City Manager Jim Ritsema. “Throughout this situation, our team has adapted and found new ways to keep the City’s work moving forward. While this is not what we were expecting for 2020, I am grateful to have this opportunity to retain everyone on our team for the work that is to come when COVID-19 passes.”

Employees are participating across all departments, including the City Manager’s Office and department heads. Some service requests may experience longer service times as a result of reduced working hours. Public safety officers, water, and wastewater services will not be affected, and residents will still be able to contact the City by dialing 3-1-1 or calling (269) 337-8000.

“COVID-19 has changed how parts of our organization work and how we interact with the people we serve. I appreciate the community’s support and understanding as we adapt to these new circumstances. Regardless of what challenges lie ahead, know that our team will be here for you.”

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Grant Program Launched To Provide Relief for Smallest Businesses

A $500,000 grant program launched today will bring crucial relief to Kalamazoo’s smallest businesses hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic.A $500,000 grant program launched today will bring crucial relief to Kalamazoo’s smallest businesses hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic.

The Kalamazoo Micro-Enterprise Grants (KMEG) provides grants of $5,000 to eligible microbusinesses within the city limits. The grants are a partnership between the City of Kalamazoo and United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region.

KMEG funding comes from a $200,000 grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation and an additional $300,000 from the City of Kalamazoo’s Foundation For Excellence, pending Kalamazoo City Commission approval. The City and United Way also collaborated on the Kalamazoo Small Business Loan Fund, a relief effort that has issued more than $1.227 million in loans to 69 local businesses so far.

“This new grant initiative shows again how the power of partnership makes a difference,” said Chris Sargent, President & CEO of United Way BCKR. “We’re excited to apply our expertise in grantmaking to benefit this crucial business sector and Kalamazoo as a whole.”

Micro-enterprises, also known as microbusinesses, are very small businesses—typically 10 or fewer employees—that generate low revenue yet bring unique skills and services to the community. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, micro-enterprises make up 74.8% of private sector employers. Many micro-enterprises are BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color)-owned and/or women-owned. They are vital to income and wealth generation in underserved communities.

The grants aim to support community members living below the ALICE threshold, with a focus on providing support to BIPOC-owned and women- owned microbusinesses, which have experienced disproportionate effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“KMEG fills an important need in our community, helping the smallest businesses get help and persevere through this challenging time,” said Antonio Mitchell, Community Investment Manager for the City of Kalamazoo.

United Way will administer the grants. Businesses seeking KMEG grants must meet these requirements:

• be a for-profit company in an industry outlined in Executive Order 2020-21, or any previous and subsequent executive order of similar intent, or demonstrate it is otherwise affected by the COVID-19 outbreak;

• be located in the City of Kalamazoo;

• have 10 employees or fewer;• have annual revenue of $1.0 million or less;

• been in existence for one year or longer;

• need working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, or other similar expenses that occur in the ordinary course of business or that demonstrate an effort to support public health; and

• demonstrate an income loss as a result of the executive orders or the COVID-19 outbreak.

Priority consideration will go to BIPOC-owned and/or women-owned microbusinesses. Secondary consideration will go to eligible businesses located in Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo neighborhoods—Northside, Edison and Eastside.

KMEG funds can be used for, but are not limited to, operational costs (such as rent, mortgage, utilities and other ordinary business expenses), payroll and benefit costs for employees, financial effects from the pandemic and executive orders, and costs for supporting3public health as a business reopens. Recipients must use their grant funds within six months and report back to United Way on how the funds were used.

Eligible businesses can begin applying for grants today at changethestory.org/micro-enterprise-grants. Applications are due by May 27 at 5 p.m. A review committee including United Way staff and diverse representatives from business, financial and community groups from across Kalamazoo will review applications and make decisions on funding by June 1.

For more information about the Kalamazoo Micro-Enterprise Grants, go to changethestory.org, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About UWBCKR

United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region envisions a vibrant community where all people realize their full potential. UWBCKR drives impact by leading shared efforts that engage diverse people, ideas and resources. We partner across all sectors year-round to achieve measurable progress towards specific goals in education, income and health—the building blocks for a good quality life. On the web: www.changethestory.org. Also check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Metro Fixed Route Service Resumes with Limited Hours Starting Monday, May 18

From Metro:

Metro’s fixed route buses will begin operating hourly Monday, May 18. The return of buses since the April 2 suspension of service will have new hours of operation and guidelines in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus and to protect vulnerable populations in Kalamazoo County.Kalamazoo, MI – Metro’s fixed route buses will begin operating hourly Monday, May 18. The return of buses since the April 2 suspension of service will have new hours of operation and guidelines in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus and to protect vulnerable populations in Kalamazoo County.

Hours of Operations

Fixed Route Bus: Fixed route buses will operate from 6:15 am to 6:15 pm Monday through Saturday. No buses will be operating on Sunday until further notice.

Metro Connect: Hours of operation are 6:00 am to 12:15 am Monday through Friday, 6:00 am to 10:15 pm Saturday and Sunday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.

For work trips needing transportation after 6:15 pm when the fixed route system is not operating, riders can call Metro Connect to schedule rides. Please be aware that there is limited availability for evening transportation from 6:15 pm to 12:15 am Monday through Friday, Saturday from 6:15pm to 10:15 pm and Sunday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Rides can be scheduled at (269) 350-2970.

New Guidelines

Riders must adhere to the following for the fixed route buses starting May 18 in order to keep public transportation operating in Kalamazoo County:

• Face coverings: Everyone on the bus must be wearing a face covering. Metro drivers will also be wearing a face covering. A covering can include a mask, scarf, or bandana, as long as it covers the nose and mouth. If a covering is not used, the rider cannot board the bus at this time.

• Boarding the Bus: Only rear door boarding is available with no fare required.

• Ramp and Assisted Boarding: Due to a new plexiglass barrier near the driver, those requiring a ramp or kneeling of the bus bus will not be able to board immediately at bus stops. Drivers will speak to the passenger at the bus stop using the outdoor speaker and send out a vehicle that is able to accommodate the passenger. Additional transportation will be made available within 30 minutes. Those needing additional assistance riding Metro can contact Metro Connect at 350-2970 for no cost curb to curb service seven days a week.

• Hand Sanitizer: A hand sanitizer dispenser has been installed at the back door where passengers board. To help keep the bus clean and to protect others, use the hand sanitizer when boarding the bus.

• Limited seating: Bus seats will be marked off with yellow tape to encourage social distancing. Members from the same household can and should remain together. Passengers cannot stand in the aisle.

• Limit Rides: Metro requests that all passengers travel for essential rides only per the Governor’s Stay Home Staff Safe order in effect through May 28. With limited hours and seating, only 14 or 18 riders can be on the bus at a time (depending on bus size). If a bus is full, the driver will not pick up additional passengers until there is room. Because of this, please consolidate trips and take Metro only for essential work, grocery and medical trips.

The Metro bus drivers are available in case of an emergency and passengers are being asked to minimize their contact with drivers at this time. With the limited services comes reduced service hours and seating. Expect setbacks and plan ample travel time.

Specific route information including modified schedules and regular updates on your public transportation is available at www.kmetro.com or by calling (269) 337-8222. Additional updates are also available on Facebook at Metro Transit.

City of Kalamazoo

Home to the Kalamazoo Promise, three institutions of higher education, two nationally recognized healthcare systems, cutting-edge medical research, world-class brewing and dining, outstanding parks, and an extensive variety of music, art, theatre, and cultural attractions.

Contact

 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 3-1-1
 (269) 337-8000
 (269) 337-8182
 241 West South Street
     Kalamazoo, MI 49007

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