MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Few businesses have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than restaurants. According to the state's restaurant and lodging association, 3,000 Michigan restaurants closed since March 2020.
Those restaurants that survived are dealing with capacity restrictions, staffing shortages and new expenses associated with operating during a pandemic.
This week, 795 food service establishments in Muskegon County began receiving an average check of $365 from the Muskegon County Health Department. Owners of restaurants and operators of schools, churches and concession stands all received a 90% reimbursement of their 2020 food service licensing fee.
According to the Muskegon County Health Department, the total amount reimbursed for Fiscal Year 2020 is $255,750. For full service license holders the license fee reimbursement check was $544.50.
"That was a nice surprise that just makes the uncertainty a little bit easier to deal with," said Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack owner Brett Gilbert. "It's a big deal for us and helps us cover the bills here and at home."
"I was just like what is this," said Dr. Rolf's Barbecue owner Judy Hissom who, like Gilbert, was surprised to discover the check in her mail. "Not expecting it and getting a surprise like this was kind of fun."
In March the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners cast a unanimous vote approving a motion to reimburse the 2020 food service license fees by 90%. The board's action is also reducing 2021 license fees by 50%. For Fiscal Year 2021 the board's action will result in $149,000 in reduced fees.
"We all want the restaurants to survive," said Muskegon County Board Chair Bob Scolnik. "We all want the county to thrive, we want people to prosper, we want the economy to start growing again and this was just a little something we could do to try and help that."
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