More than 55,900 people working in entertainment, recreation and indoor food-service venues were mailed $793 grant payments this week.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday the assistance grants were made through the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association Educational Foundation’s Employee Assistance Grants program. Whitmer signed a $45 million bipartisan budget that supports the grant program in late 2020, according to the state.
As the state continues addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitmer said her top priority is providing financial relief to families and small businesses.
“This special grant program puts dollars in the pockets of Michiganders who work in hospitality, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services sectors — as well as the gym and fitness sectors,” Whitmer said in a March 18 statement. “These Michiganders have made great sacrifices and continue to make great sacrifices as we fight COVID-19.”
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People qualifying for the grants must have worked in a bar, banquet hall, bowling alley, cafeteria, casino, as a caterer, in a food truck, at a golf course, at any lodging establishment, night club, restaurant, theater, and other such recreation.
In December 2019, Michigan had 434,000 leisure and hospitality employees. As of December 2020, there were 229,000 – a drop of more than 200,000 jobs.
“Michigan’s restaurant and hotel employees need help,” Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, said in a release. “We are honored to administer these much-needed grants. These dollars provide assistance for the hardship experienced during these extraordinary times.”
Applications for the program were processed earlier this year and applicants were notified of their approval or denial. All applicants should have received an email Friday, Feb. 26, saying whether they received the grant or not. The money will be taxed but doesn’t count as income for unemployment purposes.
The MRLA administered the grants on behalf of the state but didn’t tell denied applicants specifically why they were rejected. Many rejected applicants didn’t submit the correct documentation, they weren’t from Michigan or their Social Security number didn’t match IRS records, according to the MRLA. Click here for more about why applications were denied.
The MRLA also used LexisNexis, which uses 28 databases to assign a risk assessment score to applicants. People scoring less than 20 out of 50 were denied the grant because they were considered high risk for potentially being fraudulent – since some documentation didn’t match.
LexisNexis recommended making the cut-off point higher than a score of 20 – meaning fewer people would have been eligible, but more fraud would potentially be rooted out. But the MRLA decided to lower the bar in hopes of denying fewer honest applications.
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