Cambridge City Council approved raising the amount of CARES Act funding it would provide small businesses from $5,000 to $12,500 during its regular meeting on Oct. 5.
The city received $676,330 of CARES Act funding from the Coronavirus Relief Fund that the Minnesota Department of Revenue distributed to local governments. The council aims to deliver the CARES Act funding and assist small businesses negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and other COVID-19 related expenses in Cambridge.
“We initially only allowed business grants to be up to $5,000 per business because we weren’t sure how many businesses were going to want to be assisted,” Director of Finance Caroline Moe said. “We wanted to be careful that we didn’t let one business have a lot of money, and then we would run out of money for someone else.”
Currently, the council has distributed about $96,836 of its CARES Act funding to small businesses in Cambridge — with around $129,900 available. Businesses who have or haven’t received CARES Act funding can now receive up to a total of $12,500, Moe said.
“Many of those businesses that we’ve helped initially,” she said, “will be putting in a supplemental request to increase the amount of assistance that they received from the city of Cambridge. … We believe we have enough money that we can give them more per business than what we initially thought we could. So we’re allowing them to apply for more dollars.”
The rate at which the federal government provided the pandemic relief aid to the council has been very fast, Moe said.
“We’ve had to put guidelines in place and learn about ... the rules of the program very quickly,” she said. “So for us to actually be helping businesses this fast … is quite contrary to normally how people think government works. And in that kind of thing, we’re actually moving quite quickly on trying to get the aid out to businesses.”
During its meeting, the council revised its CARES Act funding guideline to include other businesses that were not noted in executive order 20-04 or 20-08 but that were significantly impacted by the disruption caused by the pandemic. To prove significant impact, a business must provide financial statements from March 1, 2019, to Aug. 31, 2019, and March 1, 2020, to Aug. 31, 2020, which indicate a drop of more than 20% of revenue occurred when comparing the information from 2019 to 2020. The business must also provide specific information as to how their business was disrupted by the pandemic.
House burning firefighter training
The council purchased two houses at 611 First Ave. E. and 627 First Ave. E. that will be used for fire training exercises on Oct. 24 by the Cambridge Fire Department. The houses need to be removed for the future expansion of Highway 95 through Cambridge.
“It will be a very valuable live burn training for firefighters,” Deputy Fire Chief Will Pennings said, explaining that he purchased the garages of both houses for $500 to transplant to his property, which the council approved.
Pennings also had asked the council to accept the grant the department received for the 2021 turnout gear washer/dryer grant program through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
The Cambridge Fire Department has faced challenges washing multiple sets of gear after a large fire at the same time and not having a dryer.
Pennings asked the council to approve the Fire Department to apply for the 2021 turnout gear washer/dryer grant program, which would require the council to match 25% of the purchase. The total price of the washer and dryer would be $19,437, of which the council would pay $4,859.25.