Blaine and Spring Lake Park are lending small businesses a helping hand by awarding grants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The grants are funded by federal coronavirus relief funds, which were distributed to cities by the state of Minnesota on a per capita basis. The funds were intended to provide economic help to entities struggling due to the pandemic.
Blaine Community Development Director Erik Thorvig said the city received a little over $5 million in coronavirus relief funds from the state.
The city will use $500,000 (about 10% of the funds) for small business grants, with $250,000 being issued in August and the other half being reserved for later this fall.
Grants cannot exceed $10,000 and will cover eligible expenses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic after March 1.
The first application window will be open Aug. 24 through Sept. 4. A link to the application portal will be available on BlaineMN.gov/COVID19BusinessGrants during the application window.
Blaine will also host two free virtual informational sessions on the grants: noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25, and 4-5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31. To register, visit tinyurl.com/y5j5b5gj.
“Given the urgency we’ve heard in our business community, we want to make sure that we establish this program quickly and allow for businesses to gain access to this money,” Thorvig said at the Aug. 3 City Council meeting.
The small business grants will focus on businesses most impacted by the pandemic: the service industry, retail, beauty salons, medical and dental facilities, fitness centers and more.
Blaine businesses that have been in the city longer, have a number of employees who are Blaine residents, businesses who supplied or made personal protective equipment or women or minority owned business would be seen as stronger candidates for the grant, Thorvig said.
The small business grant program is replacing a loan program developed by Blaine’s Economic Development Authority June 15 using funds from the authority.
The Spring Lake Park City Council also unanimously approved a small business grant program Aug. 3.
The city received $480,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds from the state, and allocated $100,000 for the small grant program, with $50,000 being awarded this month and another $50,000 in late October. Grants will not exceed $10,000 each.
“We wanted to take some of this money and put it out into the broader economy to support some of these businesses to keep them afloat,” City Administrator Daniel Buchholtz said. “We’re grateful to get this from the state, and we’re taking essentially 20% of it for right now and putting it out into the broader community.”
Applications will be accepted for a 10-day time frame beginning Monday, Aug. 17. Applications will be available at slpmn.org. Call 7630784-6491 with questions.
“We’ll be reaching out to business, particularly restaurants and bars were the hardest hit especially, and encouraging those folks to apply,” Buchholtz said.
Spring Lake Park will issue roughly 10 grants this month. Buchholtz said if there are more applicants than grants, other applicants will be encouraged to apply with Anoka County. The county has $5 million set aside for its small business grant program and another $1 million for nonprofits.
Both Blaine and Spring Lake Park’s eligibility requirements are similar. Applicants must have a physical establishment in the city where they’re applying, must demonstrate financial hardship due to COVID-19, must be majority owned by a permanent resident or corporation of Minnesota, must be in good standing with the Minnesota Secretary of State and Department of Revenue, must be licensed, must be current on property taxes, must have 50 employees or less as of Jan. 1, and must have been in operation for 12 months prior to application. Applicants must also disclose all federal, state or local grant or loans for which they have applied or received funds.
Ineligible businesses include applicants who have received other grants for the same expenses, multistate chains except for locally owned franchises, nonprofit organizations except 501(c)19 congressionally chartered veterans organizations, home-based businesses except day cares and businesses that derive income from passive investments such as property rentals or management, billboards or lobbying.
Some eligible uses of the grant funds include commercial lease or mortgage payments, accounts payable if it’s a COVID-19-related expense incurred since March 1, payroll unless the business received Paycheck Protection Program funds or pandemic unemployment insurance, reopening or safety improvement costs expended since March 1 and operating utilities or fees for facilities interrupted or forced to shut down as of March 1.