On Tuesday, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the dispersal of $265,000 in the first round of Minneapolis Pandemic Relief (MOR) grants to local establishments reeling from the last round of COVID-19 related shutdowns.
“We develop the program with that in mind so that they would get the first priority and work downwards” said Jean Spaulding, who is overseeing the MPR grant disbursement.
The MPR program is a joint effort between the county and the Kandiyohi county and the city of Willmar Economic Development Commission (EDC) to funnel the $852,437 the county received from a $242 million deal passed by Minnesota lawmakers last December to provide grants directly to bars, restaurants and other venues that Gov Tim Walz ordered closed in mid-November to combat COVID-19 cases spiking across the state.
Applicants are broken into three tiers, with the first tier – who did not qualify for the Minnesota Department of Revenue Business Relief Payments that were part of the $242 million relief deal – taking top priority. Tier 1 includes hotels, restaurants, bars and other establishments that have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and they have had at least a 20% reduction in their quarter four sales. Tier 2 consist of businesses that would have received Business Relief Payments, but did not qualify because they filed their taxes under a single Employer Identification Number; and businesses with an event center connected. Tier 3 consist of businesses and nonprofits that suffered at least a 20% reduction in revenue in the fourth quarter and will be awarded grants on a first come, first serve basis.
This first round of funding will go entirely towards 15 tier 1 businesses, largely restaurants and fitness centers. Average revenue losses reported in the applications are around 46.8%, though one reported income loss as high as 77%, according to Spaulding.
The tier system allows businesses most impacted by the closure to be a top priority for relief, she said.
The MPR program is modeled after the EDC’s Coronavirus Relief Program (CRP), which administered $3.5 million in Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, relief last year to local businesses and nonprofits suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession. However, the MPR program will be much more targeted and the CRP program, which aim to assist businesses impacted in any way by the pandemic.
To be eligible for assistance, applicants must be registered with the Minnesota secretary of state and have been an operation since at least Jan 1, 2020; be in good standing with the state and have no outstanding taxes; have-a-brick and mortar location within the county; and can expect to have an annual revenue of at least $20,000.
Only select types of businesses will qualify for the MPR grants, with business deemed unaffected by the pandemic – such as car dealers and law firms – being ineligible.
Unlike the CRP program which ran for three months, the MPR program will last only six weeks. The county must have all funding accounted for by March 15, so the application deadline for the program is Feb. 17.
Lakes Area Review by Macklin Caruso, Reporter