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Oakland County Plans to Give $10 Million to Help Restaurants and Bars

County executive David Coulter described the money as a “bridge” for dining establishments, while calling on congress a new relief package

Igloos outside of Detroit Fleat on a sunny fall day.
Oakland County plans to set distribute $2 million to restaurants and bars to help with weatherization for winter outdoor dining.
Gerard + Belevender
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

A bipartisan group in Oakland County announced plans on Thursday, December 3, to set aside $10 million in desperately needed aid to restaurants and bars. At a press conference in front of Royal Oak Brewery, county executive David Coulter revealed a plan to allot Oakland County’s remaining CARES Act money to food and beverage establishments struggling through a three-week indoor dining shutdown.

The so-called Oakland Together Restaurant Relief program awaits approval from the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. It calls for distributing $7 million in CARES Act money among a little more than 1,000 small businesses who were already approved for restart or recovery grants. That money can go to help businesses pay their rent and employees in the short term. An additional $2 million from the county’s general fund will go to help businesses with weatherization for outdoor service such as to purchase domes or yurts. The last $1 million, also from the general fund, will go towards helping businesses return to service under COVID-19 restrictions. That money will be used to help businesses get set up with contact tracing software, personal protective equipment, and other necessary supplies. The relief, if approved by commissioners, should be sent out to businesses before the end of the month.

Dining establishments compose roughly 10 percent of all businesses in Oakland County, which is home to some major dining districts including Madison Heights, Ferndale, Royal Oak, Clawson, and Birmingham. Many restaurants and bars across the state are struggling under a three-week indoor dining pause that seems likely to get extended.

“As a community I think it’s important that we rally around our restaurants,” Coulter said. “They’re important to the fabric of life. They create a sense of place in our downtowns. They sponsor community events. They partner in terms of needs in our community, feeding people.” Coulter acknowledged that $10 million is only “a bridge” to help businesses in the county keep their lights on and workers paid and that the restaurant industry will continue to struggle.

CARES Act programs are scheduled to expire by Wednesday, December 30. If the United States congress fails to come to an agreement over a new relief package, people across the country, particularly those in the food and beverage industry, could face significant challenges paying for basic needs like food and shelter. In his address, Coulter said he was optimistic about vaccines on the horizon, but also realistic about the fact that it will likely take several more months before health departments will begin to start lifting restrictions. “Our businesses are going to continue to be under just incredible pressure,” he said, imploring congress to take action on a new round of national relief funding.

Watch now as #OaklandCounty Executive David Coulter, Deputy Executive Sean Carlson and Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chairman David T. Woodward unveil the details of the $10 million #OaklandTogether Restaurant Relief program for local eateries affected by the #COVID19 pandemic during a live news conference at The Royal Oak Brewery in Downtown Royal Oak. They are joined by brewery owner Drew Ciora and BOC Vice Chairwoman Marcia Gershenson.

Posted by Executive Office, Oakland County, Michigan on Thursday, December 3, 2020

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