Businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the city of Pierz are now able to apply to receive $5,000 in loan assistance from the city.

The Pierz City Council officially approved the program at Monday’s Council meeting.

“I would hate to see a business close by no fault of their own, and this is not their fault,” said Pierz City Council member Jacque Ballou.

The City of Pierz COVID-19 Business Assistance Program uses local income funds that were generated from the Small Cities Development Program federal grant that the city received in 2010.  The council officially approved the Program and Local Income Use Plan to use the local funds for the business assistance program on Monday.

Based on attorney advice from Thomas G. Jovanovich, Pierz added the following paragraph to on the assistance program: “The Minnesota Governor’s Emergency Executive Orders with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in the temporary closure of non-essential businesses within the City of Pierz. Such closures have resulted in economic hardship which may result in permanent closure of such businesses which could lead to the creation of slum and blight conditions within the City of Pierz. In an effort to prevent such slum and blight conditions, the City of Pierz has implemented the Pierz COVID-19 Business Assistance Program to assist businesses negatively impacted by the Governor’s Emergency Executive Orders with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic”

The program gives $5,000 to the approved business, $2,500 of which is a grant and $2,500 which would be an interest free loan.

The loan half of the money would be paid back beginning in March 15 of 2021 at $250 a month for 10 months. Anything that is not paid off by December 31, 2021 will be added to the business property tax.

“I get that to some people $2,500 isn’t a lot of money, but to businesses that could be closing, that is a lot of money to them,” Ballou said. “The reality is that they should be given more than 10 months in my opinion, that is not enough time.”

Mayor Dave Fischer reminded her that wording in the plan also allows for the Council to meet in February to decide any further action.

“I think we did that so that we could complete the program by the end of 2021,” Fischer said. “With the verbage I had there, we could meet in February and if we still had this problem, or if we were still shut down and going through this, we could extend that payment for an additional 24 months or forgive it altogether.”

“I just don’t want them to feel like they are going to be responsible for this amount when they may not be there yet,” Ballou said.

The Council then discussed what the time line would be to approve applications.

An original plan would have the Council give final approval at the June 8 meeting.

“I just know that some of these businesses may not last until the end of June, and that’s scary,” Ballou said. “It would be in our best interest to have our businesses stay in business, so if we can approve them as they come and get at least a couple done by the end of this month I think that we should.”

After further discussion, the Council approved the following time line for the assistance program: Approval of the program Monday; Applications due at the latest by June 1; EDA board meets May 27 to go over and approve applications; Council makes final approval based on EDA recommendation; Checks would then be sent out shortly thereafter.

A second round would be approved by EDA on June 3 and the Council on June 8, with payments going out shortly there after.

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