WILLMAR — As COVID-19 cases surge across the state, many businesses, including in Kandiyohi County, are in the early days of yet another business shutdown as state leaders try to slow the spread of the deadly virus.

In an attempt to help those businesses hardest hit by the shutdown, which include bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms and entertainment venues, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners met in a special meeting Saturday morning to approve allocating more of its CARES Act funding to financial relief grants for businesses.

The board approved using approximately $252,000 of its CARES funds, the majority of which will go to the 48 bars, restaurants, cafes, fitness clubs, hotels and theaters in Kandiyohi County. This latest round of relief is using up most of what the county had left of its original $5.2 million CARES allocation.

"This is basically it," said County Administrator Larry Kleindl in an interview with the Tribune. The county has until Dec. 1 to spend all the money before it would return to the state.

The businesses that are eligible for the new funds also participated in the CARES Act Pandemic Relief Grant Program, which was run by the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commissioner using CARES Act funding from the county, Willmar and several other cities and townships in Kandiyohi County.

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Businesses that were awarded CPR grants of more than $10,000 will be eligible to receive another $5,000 from the county, while those businesses whose CPR grants were under $10,000 can get another $3,000 in financial relief.

Kleindl said the businesses won't have to apply for the money like they did for the CPR program, but will have to follow all the regulations set out in that program, such as spending the money on coronavirus expenses.

In July, the county received more than $5.2 million in CARES Act funding from the federal government, which was to be used for coronavirus expenses such as purchasing equipment for remote work or making sure there was enough personal protective equipment on hand. When the CARES funds first came through, the County Board created six different committees to work on how to spend those funds. The county has used the CARES funds to improve telework capabilities, purchase personal protective equipment, fund payroll expenses related to the coronavirus and help school districts with distance learning and broadband expenses.

Back in July, when the County Board first discussed how to spend the CARES monies, the commissioners wanted to spend at least 10 to 20 percent on small businesses. In the end, the county ended up allocating significantly more to businesses, along with nonprofits, schools and other community organizations.

"Over 60 percent of the dollars we received for CARES dollars went back out to businesses and the public ," Kleindl said.