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Willmar, Kandiyohi County continue to give relief to local businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19

The deadline for the city of Willmar and Kandiyohi County to spend remaining CARES Act stimulus funds is quickly approaching. Both the City Council and County Board approved sending even more of their total allocations to the Economic Development Commission, to fund the remaining grants to be issued to small businesses and nonprofits through the CARES Pandemic Relief grant program.

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The city of Willmar is sending another $180,000 in CARES Act funding to the Economic Development Commission CPR grant program, created to assists Kandiyohi County small businesses and nonprofits hurt by the pandemic. The Kandiyohi County Board also approved sending another $99,000 to the program. West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMAR β€” When Kandiyohi County and the city of Willmar began planning how to spend the stimulus funds each received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, both the County Board and City Council were clear where they thought the most relief was needed β€” small businesses and nonprofits negatively impacted by the pandemic and related shutdown.

Each initially transferred at least $1 million of its CARES allocation to the county and city Economic Development Commission which established the CARES Pandemic Relief grant program, which has provided grants to eligible small businesses and nonprofits in Kandiyohi County. The grants were funded through the CARES Act transfers from Kandiyohi County, Willmar and several other smaller cities and townships.

Willmar provided $1 million of its $1.5 million allocation to the grant program earlier this summer, and during the Nov. 2 council meeting, approval was given to send an additional $180,000 to the program.

"The EDC could utilize these funds," Willmar City Administrator Brian Gramentz said.

Kandiyohi County originally allocated $1.3 million of its $5.1 million in CARES funding to the grant program and in early October another $500,000 was given to the EDC, to continue funding grants. On Tuesday, a third transfer of funds from the county to the EDC was approved by the County Board, this time in the amount of $99,626, bringing the county's total assistance to the CPR grant program to approximately $1.9 million.

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The additional monies approved last week from Willmar and Kandiyohi County will allow the EDC to fully fund the last of the approved grant applications. The application deadline for the program was the end of October.

All totaled the EDC had approximately $3.25 million to grant to eligible small businesses and nonprofits. As of Oct. 30, 231 businesses and 38 nonprofits applied for grants. Approximately 60 percent of the businesses and 79 percent of the nonprofits were based in Willmar while the others were spread out across the rest of the county.

The small businesses saw an average revenue loss of 60 percent and the average grant awarded was $9,781. The average grant for nonprofits was $26,782.

"We have felt very good that the small business, nonprofit grant program had such demand. We really feel it was a successful program," said Jean Spaulding, county CARES Act coordinator.

Both Willmar and Kandiyohi County still have CARES money left to spend. The money, according to the requirements laid out in the CARES Act, is to be used to help pay for the unexpected costs governmental bodies have incurred related to the coronavirus. The act also allowed the money to be used for business relief.

The city has about $55,000 remaining, and must find a use for it by Nov. 15 or it goes to Kandiyohi County. So far the city has used the money to fund an emergency leave option for staff who are impacted by the coronavirus and to purchase new technology for remote work and meetings.

Gramentz said the short time frame makes it nearly impossible for the city to start any large projects, such as looking at the air filtration in the city building.

"There is only so much you can do," Gramentz said. "Our properties have been handled appropriately at this time, to meet our needs."

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The county has until Dec. 1 to spend its remaining $830,617 or it gets sent back to the state. 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.

"We are very happy with how the teams have really worked diligently with all the different departments," Spaulding said. "Every single one of the committees are really looking at where are the needs and how can we best maximize these funds to meet those needs. The teams have worked really great."

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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