The Coronavirus Relief Program [sic], which provided grant funding—and for some, a lifeline—for hundreds of area businesses and nonprofits hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession, has come to a close.
When everything is finalized at the end of the year, Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission (EDC) Director Aaron Backman estimates the EDC will have doled out about $3.5 million in assistance. “That is a significant sum for us, it’s a significant sum for any county,” Backman said during the EDC’s Thursday board meeting.
Earlier this year the U.S. Congress established the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES act, which appropriated $150 billion to the Coronavirus Relief Fund. In late June, Gov. Tim Walz released $841 million from the CARES Act that was divided into counties and cities based on population. The most significant spending of area CARES funding from the county, cities and townships was funneled to the EDC for business and nonprofit relief.
The CRP [sic] program was a concerted effort between local units of government to provide CARES funding to the EDC for local business and nonprofit support. The EDC began distributing the CARES Act money through the CRP [sic] program in late July to local businesses and nonprofits via grants. Through the EDC, businesses and nonprofits can [sic] request up to $15,000 and $50,000 respectively, in grants.
In total, the EDC distributed financial assistance to 232 business and 38 nonprofit grants. The $3.3 million that has thus far been distributed by the EDC, constitutes 43% of all CARES money that has come into the county.
Prior to the pandemic, the EDC had yet to work with 85% of the businesses to which they provided financial assistance, according to Backman. However, businesses that sought relief were hit hard, with the average lost income being reported at 60%. Those hit hardest were barbershops, salons, and massage and nail parlors, who received more financial assistance than any other local industry. Restaurants, bard and grocery stores received the second greatest amount of financial assistance.
Though the bulk of the grants went to Willmar businesses, New London and Spicer businesses, respectively, received the second and third most grants in the county, with 22 New London businesses and 21 Spicer businesses receiving financial assistance. New London Township businesses also received nine grants—the most received by any township.
The average grant amount given to businesses was $9,780, with 20% of all grants supporting minority-owned businesses. Through the grant program, the EDC was able to support 1,076 full time jobs, with each business supporting, on average, 4.6 employees.
Though the majority of the grants went to support business, nonprofits—many of whose services were relied upon during the pandemic—received significantly larger allocations, averaging $26,782 per nonprofit.
The average loss of reported income among nonprofits was 35% and, through the grants, the EDC was able to support 286 full-time nonprofit jobs, with each nonprofit averaging eight employees.
In order to qualify for grants from the EDC, businesses needed to show a revenue loss of at least 20% between March 1 and May 30 compared to the previous year. Furthermore, they must have less than 100 employees; have a brick and mortar location within Kandiyohi County; and must be registered with the Minnesota Secretary of State and have been in operation since March 1, 2019. Similar rules applied to nonprofits seeking funding.
Lakes Area Review by Macklin Caruso