Coldwater city officials are looking at what they can do to help local businesses hurt by the COVID-19 crisis.

The city’s economic development staff told the city council this week it has been answering questions and providing links to programs offered by the state and federal government.

Branch County Economic Growth Alliance Director Lisa Miller said “we have had contact with 20 businesses. We are trying to help anyway we can.”

It will be up to the city council and BCEGA to determine “what we can put money towards. What kind of programs you will be comfortable with to help our companies,” Miller said

Miller warned “some companies are going to make it. Some companies aren’t. Anything we can do will be a big benefit.”

She has been working with Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Congressman Tim Walberg’s offices for information. The local banks have been helpful to work with, she said.

Councilman Mike Beckwith said it seems hard for businesses to know where to turn, with all the programs and regulations.

“It is overwhelming,” Miller said.

Staff is trying to get information out every way they can, including the city’s online presence. For those seeking grants and loans “We have been pushing them to their lenders,” she said.

The need is there. For the state Small Business Relief Grant there were 80 applications in Branch County. Only seven were funded with the limited allotment.

Companies with two to 500 employees have reached out to Miller and development aide Audrey Tappenden for help.

“For the most part, we were able to help out. We are here for the community. We try to help in anyway we can,” Miller said.

She said her staff said they can work with firms to establish a web presence for off premise sales during the close down. Some will need cash assistance to upgrade safety measures during the epidemic. Others just need cash to pay continuing bills until business returns.

Sources of funds for these programs could look to the Downtown Development Authority, donations through the Community Foundation, and a Revolving Loan Fund.

There is also $265,000 in a Revolving Loan fund handled on a regional basis. It is left over from federal Community Block Grants.

“There is some flexibility to how we use that fund, Tappenden said. Miller said restrictions are less than original, but there are some.

City Manager Keith Baker said the programs is loans. That program has been mostly dormant for six to ten years.

Councilwoman Emily Rissman said she wants to hear about anything.

“What we can do to help out? I definitely think we should,” she said.

Mayor Tom Kramer said the city has fiduciary responsibilities.

“We still have to take care of taxpayer dollars,” he said. “A lot of these plans use donations. We have to go slowly on using our funds for private business. Obviously, there are all kinds of grants.”

Staff reviewed municipal programs in the area. Kalamazoo is providing loans between $5,000 and $50,000. This is a partnership with the private Foundation for Excellence, a donated pool of money through the United Way.

Marshall Area Economic Development gave out a $1,000 grant to 70 businesses funded through the tourism bureau and downtown development authority with captured tax funds. The awards when through the city and chamber of commerce. Its tax exempt organization it can take in donations.

Battle Creek Unlimited is providing loans between $10,000 and $50,000 to businesses with fewer than 25 employees. The money went in two days. Loans payments were deferred six months.

As for Downtown Development, Miller said “we are still doing our recruitment and retention efforts.” Two recruitment projects are being monitored.

“No one has yet said they were not considering projects in Coldwater. That is good,” Miller said.

One reason for little activity, some are from out-of-state and under different regulations during COVID 19.

Staff also said there is an effort to move the Children’s Museum back from Fairfield Plaza back to 71-73 West Chicago, a building donated to the city. The city had asked for proposal for the space.