WILLMAR — When you add up all the money that has so far been awarded to small businesses and nonprofits through coronavirus relief programs run by the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, the total is more than $2 million.
Since March the EDC has established a handful of grant or loan programs focused on providing financial relief to businesses in the county hit hard by economic impacts tied to the virus outbreak. The programs include the CARES Pandemic Relief Program, Immigrant Business Disaster Relief with funding from the Southwest Initiative Fund, Child Care Business Assistance and the COVID-19 Business Assistance Loan Program.
CARES is the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that provided funds to local units of government, individuals and businesses.
The largest local program by far is the CARES Pandemic Relief Program, funded through monies given to counties, cities and townships from the federal CARES Act. Kandiyohi County allocated $1.3 million to the program and the city of Willmar added another $1 million. The cities of Kandiyohi, Pennock, New London and Spicer and the townships of Dovre, Harrison, Lake Andrew, New London and Willmar also participated, bringing the entire total to $2,475,042.
"There has been a lot of activity related to that," said Aaron Backman, EDC executive director, during Thursday's meeting of the EDC Operations Board.
Since the program launched in late July, the EDC has received 164 applications from businesses and nonprofits located in Kandiyohi County. Of the applicants, 136 were businesses and 28 nonprofits.
"That is a fair amount," Backman said.
The EDC finance committee has given its recommendation that 109 of the business applications be approved and so far the Kandiyohi County Board has give final approval of 75. Twenty-six of the nonprofit applications have received EDC finance approval and 21 have County Board approval. Connie Schmoll, EDC business development manager, said she expects the County Board to approve the remaining applications at future meetings.
Nearly $1.8 million in grants have either been approved and cashed out or are awaiting approval. The average grant for a business is nearly $10,000, and $28,000 for nonprofits.
"That is over half the funds that have been allocated," Backman said.
Approximately 56 percent of the businesses approved are from the city of Willmar, as are most of the nonprofits. However, the number of businesses and nonprofits located in other areas of the county has been rising.
"We are getting a good spread amongst the townships as well as the different cities," Schmoll said.
The type of businesses awarded grants include 25 barbers, salons, massage parlors and nail studios; 24 service businesses such as printing, media and home decorating; 18 restaurants; 11 health care businesses; 6 hotels and 8 in construction. Schmoll said the EDC will be reaching out to more restaurants and retail establishments to entice more to send in applications.
"We think there are so many more that could be applying," Schmoll said.
Those businesses on average employ about five people and have seen their revenue drop 60 percent due to the business shutdowns.
"That is enough to close the doors if they don't get help from somewhere and if it doesn't turn around," Schmoll said.
The EDC receives about six CARES Pandemic Relief Program applications a day during the work week. If the current rate continues, Backman estimates the program will run out of funds by the first half of October. Businesses and nonprofits can continue to apply and more information can be found at www.kandiyohi.com.
"We have been aggressive in getting the word out," Backman said.
The other EDC relief programs have helped people as well. Thirty-five businesses applied for the COVID-19 Business Assistance Loan Program. Backman said approximately 82 percent of the money, or $122,500, has been loaned out to approved applicants.
Twenty immigrant-run businesses took advantage of the immigrant business grant program, with $14,000 awarded.
"We are at about 55 percent of funds expended," Backman said.
Based on what he has seen and heard in other cities and counties across the state, Backman believes the programs — especially the CARES Pandemic Relief Program — that his staff have established and manage are some of the best and have helped many people.
"Frankly, we have designed the program pretty well," Backman said.