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Community updates: Thursday, Nov. 19

City of Grand Rapids launches small business grant program, announces temporary service adjustments; Kent County awards violence prevention grants to local nonprofits; Grand Rapids Public Museum makes Collections images public domain; and more.
Man walking dog at Reeds Lake Trail in East Grand Rapids.

Man walking dog at Reeds Lake Trail in East Grand Rapids. /Experience Grand Rapids

City of Grand Rapids launches small business grant program, announces temporary service adjustments

The City of Grand Rapids has launched a new grant program for small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, it announced Tuesday. Eligible businesses qualify for up to $5,000 each.

The program’s grants will support for-profit businesses meeting the city’s criteria. Among them are having a physical location, 25 or fewer employees, a location within its “General Target Area,” and others listed on its website.

Announcement of the grant program comes as many businesses continue adjusting to statewide pandemic-related restrictions on their operations. A new emergency order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on Nov. 15 has re-expanded these to include shutdowns for indoor restaurant dining, theaters, office work unable to be done from home, and more. Such restrictions currently run through Dec. 8.

Funding for the grant program comes through $1 million in federal support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program's application and full details are available on the city’s website.

The City of Grand Rapids also announced Tuesday that it’s adjusting many of its services to align with the MDHHS’ latest order.

Through Dec. 8, most city buildings will be closed to walk-in traffic. Exceptions include the city’s Customer Service Center at City Hall and its yard waste drop-off site.

We have a responsibility to our residents and our employees. That’s why we are altering how we deliver services during this three-week period,” City Manager Mark Washington said. “It’s important we all do what we can to reduce the spread of this latest COVID-19 spike and maintain the critical services our community depends on.”

The Grand Rapids area’s COVID-19 case growth and test positivity rate have continued to climb over the last week. On Thursday, the Kent County Health Department reported a weekly average of 682 new cases per day for all of Kent County, with around 16.2 percent of all tests coming back positive.

A full list of adjustments to Grand Rapids city services are available on the city’s website.


Kent County announces violence prevention grants for seven local nonprofits

Kent County announced its own grant program news this week, sharing on Wednesday its list of awardees for its first round of community violence prevention funding.

Seven local nonprofits received grants ranging from $15,000 to $150,000, as part of the county’s Community Violence Prevention Grant Program. Heart of West Michigan United Way (HWMUW) partners with Kent County to administer the funds.

The program aims to reduce the area’s uptick in violence in 2020, which has been reported by the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) and Kent County Sheriff’s Office. As of Thursday, Grand Rapids has had 33 confirmed homicides this year, according to the GRPD.

The nonprofits receiving the violence prevention funding are:

The agencies receiving funds have established track records in transforming our community,” said Michelle Van Dyke, HWMUW President and CEO. “They serve as leaders in preventing violence, facilitators of diversion efforts, and mentors for local youth.”

Together, we will educate and support Kent County residents to ensure the place we call home becomes safer and stronger than ever before,” she added.

$500,000 in total was allocated for the program by Kent County’s Board of Commissioners in Oct. The county received the money through federal CARES Act dollars, which is to be used for pandemic-related relief.

Local law enforcement leaders, such as Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker and GRPD Chief Eric Payne, have reported connections between pandemic-related shutdowns and this year’s increased violence.


Grand Rapids Public Museum makes Collections images public domain, free to download

The Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) announced Tuesday that it’s published its Collections records under a Creative Commons Zero license, which means that the majority of its more than 150,000 digital images are now free to use and download at any time.

The GRPM’s Collections records include photographs of artifacts and specimens, scans of photographs, catalogs, and more. They’re now available to view and download, for personal or educational use, at

“This is part of GRPM's vision of broad accessibility, including accessible Collections and sharing knowledge for all,” said GRPM’s President and CEO, Dale Robertson. “This is especially nice for our educational K-12 partners, students, teachers, researchers, authors, media creators, and anyone with interest.”

Through the museum’s Collections website, residents are also able to contribute to its ongoing community documentation project about local life during the pandemic. Submissions can include stories, videos, or photos.


Grand Rapids Public Library returning to curbside, online services only

The Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) announced Wednesday that its branches will return to curbside pickup and online services only, starting Nov. 23.

While libraries aren’t required to shut down in-person services through the MDHHS’ latest emergency order, the GRPL’s Board of Library Commissioners voted Tuesday to temporarily end those services to help slow COVID-19’s spread.

Last week, the Kent District Library announced its own branches were returning to curbside and online services only, which began Monday.

Branch hours for the GRPL’s curbside pickup services are available on its website, as well as its variety of online resources.


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