City Commission to Consider New Program Supporting Small Businesses at March 31 Meeting

(en espanol)

pdf March 31, 2020 Special Meeting Notice & Conference Information (118 KB)

pdf How to Join Zoom Meeting (104 KB)

Partnership with United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region would offer low-interest loans to support small businesses affected by COVID-19

The Kalamazoo City Commission will convene for a Special Meeting on Tuesday, March 31 at 6pm. The purpose of the meeting is to consider the Kalamazoo Small Business Loan Fund, a partnership with the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region (UWBCKR) that would offer near-immediate support for small businesses that have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting will be conducted using the Zoom platform to promote social distancing and protect participant health.

If approved, the Kalamazoo Small Business Loan Fund (KSBLF) would provide urgent relief to small business via low-interest loans of between $5,000 and $50,000, with approval and disbursement expected in a matter of days. Loans could be used to cover operational expenses, payroll, and benefits.

 “Significant and necessary steps have been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” noted Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema, “but these steps have created serious hardships for the small businesses that we all rely on. This program is intended to help these businesses stay open and keep people employed until state and federal support has an impact.”

The program is available to all businesses that meet the following criteria:

  • Provide support to impacted employees
  • are located within the City of Kalamazoo
  • Have 50 employees or fewer
  • Need working capital for payroll or operational expenses
  • Can demonstrate an income loss related to COVID-19

The total term of each loan will be 36 months. No payments will be required for six months, followed by a fully amortizing 30-month term at an interest rate of 1%. Applications will be reviewed for approval by an advisory board consisting of economic development and community representatives. Review is expected to take place weekly with a goal to wire funds as early as two days after receiving an application. This program is emergency relief and is intended to be temporary, with loans being made until approved grant funds are exhausted or its closure by the partners.

“We know that people are working around the clock at the state and federal level to organize help, but we are thinking about our city, and see these rapidly available funds as critical to bridging businesses and our workforce until State and Federal help materializes,” said Andrew Haan, President of Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership.

The program was designed by the UWBCKR and City of Kalamazoo based on national best practice models and local assistance from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership, and the Michigan Small Business Development Center. The strong community partnerships that exist in Kalamazoo made it possible to move this program from inception to execution in less than two weeks. It complements other relief programs that are also available to community members, including the UWBCKR Disaster Relief Fund and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation Urgent Relief Fund.

At the meeting the City Commission will consider allocating $2 million of funding from the Foundation for Excellence and entering into an agreement with the UWBCKR to administer the program for its duration.

“This program aims to offer immediate life-lines to small businesses and their workers, especially those in the category of “asset limited, income constrained, employed” (ALICE), and retain workforce capacity in this time before state and federal programs to show impact,” said Chris Sargent, President & CEO of the UWBCKR.

Small business owners would be able to find complete information and apply entirely online at www.changethestory.org starting April 1.

Online City Commission Meetings

The March 31 Special City Commission meeting will be conducted virtually via the Zoom platform to exercise social distancing and protect the health of the City Commission and the public. Members of the public may join the meeting via telephone or computer and will be able to offer public comments as part of the meeting. The March 31 agenda also includes consideration of rules to govern future virtual meetings that may be necessary as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instructions for participate on March 31 and for any future virtual meetings are available at www.kalamazoocity.org.

The United Way of the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek Region

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.

The Foundation for Excellence

The Foundation for Excellence was created in 2016 to help address challenges to the prosperity of the City and help make Kalamazoo the most dynamic, fulfilling and equitable place that it can be.

The FFE provides funds to stabilize the City’s budget, lower the property tax rate, and invest in aspirational community projects and programs. FFE funds support programs and projects of City departments, such as Public Services, Community Planning and Economic Development, and Parks and Recreation. Their work is often conducted in partnerships with external organizations whose missions align with the goals of the City.

3-1-1 Contact Center Offers Service with ‘One Call to City Hall’

City residents can dial 3-1-1 within the city limits for assistance with any City service. For service outside of the city limits, dial (269) 337-8000.

The City of Kalamazoo is celebrating 3-1-1 Day with the introduction of the new 3-1-1 contact center. Starting today, anyone within the city limits can dial 3-1-1 to be connected with any non-emergency city services. When outside of the city limits, the contact center can be reached by dialing (269) 337-8000.

In the event of an emergency, residents should continue to dial 9-1-1.

The 3-1-1 contact center consolidates and coordinates all customer service in one division. Instead of having to locate the correct number for the correct department or person for any particular request, residents may now simply dial 3-1-1 for assistance. Translation is also available for more than 200 languages.

“We wanted to streamline and simplify customer service for our community,” explained City Manager Jim Ritsema. “By creating a dedicated team to assist community members, we can provide better, faster, and more effective service. This also lets our staff in other departments focus on their core tasks.”

3-1-1 is a division of the City Manager’s Office that was created in 2018. In the time since, every type of service request has been reviewed, and processes for handling them have been reevaluated. In total, more than 1,200 scripts have been written to explain how to handle various types of calls. Each department’s calls were transferred to the contact center in phases. 3-1-1 Experience Ambassadors first started answering phone calls in November 2018 for Water, Wastewater, Assessing, and Treasury divisions. All non-emergency calls had been transferred to the 3-1-1 team by the end of 2019.

Transferring customer service to a new division was an organization-wide effort, which relied not only on the 3-1-1 team but also staff in every department. The project also benefited from the experience and expertise of colleagues with the City of Grand Rapids. Becky Jo Glover, Grand Rapids’ Chief Customer Service and Innovation Officer, was an invaluable partner throughout the process, sharing insights from her experience creating the GR311 Customer Service Center in Grand Rapids and Miami-Dade County 311 in Florida.

“The City of Grand Rapids and their GR311 team have been outstanding throughout this project,” continued City Manager Ritsema. “Their advice on everything from software to scriptwriting to processes has been a huge help with implementation in Kalamazoo. We’re really grateful for their support.”

With the Customer Service Center answering all non-emergency calls, focus will shift to refining processes to make service as quick and convenient as possible, with a goal to resolve all issues in one call. The number of repeat callers and frequency of issues can help inform future improvements to online and in-person service.

About 3-1-1

The 3-1-1 number is reserved by the Federal Communications Commission for non-emergency governmental service. Telecom service and cell service providers program this number to contact the City of Kalamazoo for calls that originate within the city limits. Callers can reach the customer service center from anywhere by calling (269) 337-8000. Customers of some phone providers may initially need to dial 337-8000 while 311 programming is completed on their networks.

In the event of an emergency, residents should continue to dial 9-1-1.

 

2020 Action Plan Available for Public Comment

The City of Kalamazoo's  pdf Draft 2020 Action Plan (1.55 MB)  is now available for public comment through April 2, 2020. Please submit any comments or feedback to Venessa Collins-Smith, Community Investment Compliance Specialist via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by mail to: City of Kalamazoo Community Investment, 415 Stockbridge Ave, Kalamazoo, MI. 49001, Attn: Community Development Coordinator.

To qualify for funding from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, the City must have an approved Consolidated Plan and Action Plan. The pdf Consolidated Plan (2.24 MB) identifies five-year goals for CDBG, HOME, and ESG funding and outlines the City’s strategy to address the housing and community development needs of its low and moderate income families and individuals. Action Plans are prepared each year and detail how HUD funds will be spent each year to achieve the broader goals established in the Consolidated Plan.

 

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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