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New pots of money for local businesses, nonprofits hurt by state action on COVID-19

Not only is the Becker County Board offering one-time, $2,000 emergency business relief grants, but the county just learned it will receive over $665,000 from a state relief bill passed by the Legislature Monday evening.

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Business owners and others watched the Becker County Board in action Tuesday at the courthouse. (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)
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Help is on the way for bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, museums and others affected by the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders.

Not only is the Becker County Board offering one-time, $2,000 emergency business relief grants, but the county just learned it will receive over $665,000 from a state relief bill passed by the Legislature Monday evening. That money is also earmarked for local business relief. And there are two other new pots of money as well.

Becker County offers one-time $2,000 business grants

The new $2,000 grants will go to businesses that have experienced financial hardship by having to close their doors or modify their operations because of Minnesota’s latest executive orders.

“This is a streamlined program, to get funds out quickly to those businesses directly impacted by the governor’s executive order,” said Becker County Board Chair Ben Grimsley.

Grant applicants:

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  • Must operate within Becker County.
  • May employ no more than 25 employees as of Dec. 15.
  • Restaurants need a valid food license.
  • Bars need a valid liquor License.
  • Fitness centers, movie theaters, recreation centers, and museums are eligible, along with other businesses ordered to close (as defined within Minnesota Executive Order 20-99).

Businesses that qualify for the $2,000 grants must use the money to cover pandemic-related costs like payroll, expense support, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills, and similar business expenses.
To apply, go to the Becker County website (www.co.becker.mn.us). The application will require signing an agreement, certifying your business has been financially impacted by the executive order, certifying that grant funds will be used to cover costs during the COVID-19 problem, and that the type of business is specifically listed within Minnesota Executive Order 20-99.

The application will remain open until closed, with grants being paid as soon as the application has been validated.

Prior to this emergency grant program, the county gave over $847,000 in direct assistance to businesses.

Commissioner John Okeson noted at the County Board meeting on Tuesday that a lot of the money for the $2,000 grant program came from hundreds of thousands of federal CARES dollars given back to the county from townships that did not use it.

Commissioners invited business owners at the meeting to participate in structuring the local program. “We do have funds at the county level that we can use to help business,” said Commissioner Barry Nelson. “We want to make your business solvent.”

Commissioner Ben Grimsley agreed: “With county money, there are no strings attached -- we can create our own program,” he said.

Mike Williams of Pit 611 and Wayne Crawford of Sunlite bar and grill were two that immediately agreed to get involved.

Becker County gets $665,000 for business, nonprofit relief program

As far as the $665,000 going to Becker County from the new state relief bill, all Minnesota counties are getting similar funding from a $115 million bucket provided by the state.

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The measure gives counties a lot of flexibility to set eligibility and program guidelines for businesses and nonprofits, and to set minimum and maximum amounts.

Receiving previous state grants or loans does not necessarily block businesses from qualifying for these new grants -- it’s up to the county.

Here are some details, according to legislative information passed on by Grimsley:

  • These grants are not limited to economic distress caused by the most recent executive order. They apply to financial problems caused by all executive orders stemming back to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Grants will go to businesses and nonprofits with no current tax liens on record with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office.
  • The legislation is clear that nonprofits, nonprofit arts organizations, museums, and fitness centers are eligible for grants.
  • Grants must be awarded by March 15, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development will give a report to the Legislature on how counties spent the funds by June 30.

Fast-track state relief money

And that’s not all. The state has approved a separate bucket ($88 million) of fast-track money in which the Department of Revenue will identify restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, bowling alleys, bars, fitness/recreation centers based on their North American Industry Classification System codes.

Payments will go to businesses within these codes that have experienced at least an overall 30% reduction in sales from the second and third quarters of 2019 to the second and third quarters of 2020.Once a business meets the criteria, their payment will be based on the following five tiers:

  • Businesses that don’t participate in UI programs (small businesses/sole proprietors), $10,000

  • 0-20 employees, $15,000

  • 21-100, $25,000

  • 101-300, $35,000

  • Over 300, $45,000

Help for movie theaters

There is also a separate $9 million bucket of fast-track money that DEED will identify and provide grants to movie theaters (divided by screen amount) that have experienced declines in sales of 30% or more.

Questions about any of this? Contact Becker County EDA Director Guy Fischer at 218-846-7330 or guy.fischer@co.becker.mn.us.

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