Council decision expected soon

The Burnsville City Council should double its $1 million COVID-19 relief fund for businesses, Council Member Dan Kealey has insisted for weeks.

He appears to be growing impatient with the lack of a decision.

“We’re up against the clock,” Kealey said firmly during Tuesday’s council meeting, warning he doesn’t want the issue “slow-played” to the point where time runs out.

Nov. 15 is the city’s deadline for disbursing its $4.7 million allocation from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act approved by Congress in March.

Burnsville is splitting the funds between relief grants for businesses and select nonprofits and covering some of city government’s pandemic-related costs.

City staffers have yet to bring the council their spending plan, which City Manager Melanie Lee said will be ready for the Sept. 22 council meeting.

According to Kealey, the city has identified $900,000 in pandemic-related “hard costs,” though the sum is expected to rise over time. There’s plenty of room to double the business grants, he said.

Kealey said he wants to help “every single business that we possibly can” that has suffered financially from the pandemic.

Mayor Elizabeth Kautz and Council Member Dan Gustafson said they want to nail down the city’s needs before deciding on more business grants.

“I’ve always said I want to understand what our expenses are before we move forward,” the mayor said.

Gustafson said he wants to protect city programs and “make sure our own employees have jobs when this thing is done as well.”

Council Member Cara Schulz said she tentatively backs the extra $1 million for businesses.

“I’m letting you know that my default position on this is I’m leaning toward allocating that extra $1 million unless it is clearly articulated that it should not happen,” she said.

Council Member Vince Workman said the council needs to see the city staff’s spending plan soon.

There will be time to process applications and make more business grants before the deadline, Community Development Director Jenni Faulkner said.

A lottery selection for the first $1 million was set for Wednesday. There were 161 applicants for the grants of up to $20,000, Faulkner said. A total of 127 applications were eligible for the lottery. Some applications were ineligible because they failed to demonstrate a pandemic-related revenue loss or were incomplete, she said.

Applicants submitted $2.3 million in eligible expenses, Faulkner said.

The city has already cut checks to four nonprofits the council singled out for $50,000 grants: the Burnsville Chamber of Commerce, Experience Burnsville, 360 Communities and the Burnsville YMCA.

The council has yet to decide on a $161,000 CARES request from M Health Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville.

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