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Kandiyohi County closes out a successful CARES Act

Kandiyohi County has been able to spend all of its $5.2 million allocation from the federal CARES Act, using the money to fund a variety of pandemic-related expenses. This includes grants to small businesses, new technology and facility upgrades.

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Kandiyohi County has successfully spent all of its $5.29 million in CARES Act funding. The money was used for small business and nonprofit grants, payroll expenses, protective equipment, facility upgrades and technology to help with teleworking and distance learning. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — When the state of Minnesota started doling out millions of dollars in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding to all 87 counties along with most cities and townships, what to do with that money became a number one priority for many local units of government in the state, including Kandiyohi County.

In July, Kandiyohi County received $5,235,792 in funding and county commissioners and staff needed to quickly figure out how to use the money before the Dec. 1 deadline.

Committees were formed, focusing on health and human services, county employee costs, business/nonprofits, public safety, information technology expenses and finally miscellaneous. which included schools and broadband.

See related stories on Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners .

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, CARES Act funds must be used for "necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency," which were not accounted for in the most recently approved budget and were incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30, 2020.

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Now that the deadline to spend the money has arrived, County Administrator Larry Kleindl and CARES Coordinator Jean Spaulding gave what could be the last program update at Tuesday's Kandiyohi County Board meeting. The county was able to successfully spend all the money originally allocated to it and then some. Cities and townships had until Nov. 15 to spend their money or it was returned to the county. Because of that, the county received another $60,639 in funding over the last few weeks, bringing the county's CARES Act total to $5,296,431.

"It has been rapid fire in the last few days" to close out all the spending prior to the Tuesday deadline, said Spaulding.

If any remaining money is found as the final reports are done, the board gave its approval for it be used for Family First, a program that provides paid leave for county employees impacted by COVID-19.

The county distributed its funds to pay for eligible payroll expenses; personal protective equipment, such as masks; cleaning products; new technology to improve teleworking and distance learning capabilities; and other coronavirus expenses such as buying and installing automatic doors at the county's buildings.

The county also sent just over $1.9 million to a pandemic grant program run by the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission. With additional money from Willmar and several other cities and townships, the EDC granted $3.3 million to eligible small businesses and nonprofits in the county.

The county also granted another $194,000 to restaurants, bars, cafes, gyms, theaters and other hospitability businesses when they were again ordered closed by Gov. Tim Walz.

In an interview with the West Central Tribune on Tuesday, Kleindl said the county used 40 percent of its CARES Act money for internal expenses, such as payroll, while 60 percent went to help other organizations and businesses out in the wider community. He said the county would not be sending any money back to the state.

The commissioners were proud of all that was achieved over the last several months.

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"I am incredibly proud of the work everyone has done," said Commissioner Roger Imdieke. "I think this, under the kind of pressure we were under, I don't think we could have done any better."

How well the county came together to make the CARES Act successful was held up as an example of what can happen when everyone works together for the greater good.

"It shows government can form a great coalition of people with good hearts to do the job when they are called to duty," said Commissioner Steve Ahmann.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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