A new program led by the Blooming Prairie Economic Development Authority with help from the city’s Chamber of Commerce will help local businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city and the county have joined forces to provide assistance to local businesses by offering grants as part of the new Blooming Prairie CARES Business Grant Program. A preliminary motion to approve the program was made back in early August, with additional approval by the EDA. On Monday night, the Blooming Prairie City Council voted to allocate $41,000 to the program after receiving further details about the program.

Steele County has pledged an additional $34,000 to the program, bringing the anticipated potential total of funding up to $75,000, according to agenda notes. The application period is open now and will close at 5 p.m. Oct. 12.

Items such as program guidelines, frequently asked questions and applications can be picked up in the city hall, on the city’s website or requested via email from the city administrator at cbp@smig.net. The Blooming Prairie EDA and chamber will be reaching out to local businesses to encourage them to apply for the grants to potentially be reimbursed for COVID-19 related expenses.

“We’ve had a few come in, a few called and then our chamber representative is going out to some businesses, but then we will be reaching out individually,” Andrew Langholz, Blooming Prairie city administrator said.

As of Monday morning, the city has yet to receive a completed application.

Eligible businesses can receive a grant up to $5,000. Award funds may be used for operating costs, such as payroll, rent, mortgage and utilities, among other expenses. Once the deadline comes, the city will review all of the applications and funds will be granted to those in most need of assistance.

“Then at that point, if depending on how many requests come it, like if it exceeds our funding amount, we would look at ranking them, possibly in tiers, so businesses that were affected the most, like bars and restaurants which are still at the 50% capacity order would likely be a high tier, but that’s still yet to be determined,” Langholz said.

Eligible businesses must met the following criteria as of March 1, 2020, according to the Blooming Prairie CARES Business Grant Program, provided on the Blooming Prairie website:

Must be a private, for profit business with a physical establishment in the city.

Be in good standing with the Minnesota Department of Revenue and Secretary of State, the county and the city. If the applicant is found not to be in good standing, they will be given one week to fix the situation.

An ability to show that their business was adversely impacted by a COVID-19 related Executive Order or experienced a significant financial hardship as a direct result of COVID-19.

The business must have been in operation since Nov. 1, 2019 and must remain open for six months under the current ownership from the date of fund issuance. If a business is sold or closes within six months of the date of funds being issued, repayment of the grant must be made in full to the city.

The business must employ 30 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.

Information on ineligible businesses can be found on the Blooming Prairie city website. It should be noted that this program is not for nonprofits.

Applicants are also asked to provide basic details about their business, receipts/sale information, status on whether the business is currently closed or has reduced services, description, and estimated expenses as a result of COVID-19, information about other grants awarded, information on prospective uses and funding amount requested as well as supporting documents. Expenses related to COVID-19 must be incurred between March 1 and Oct. 9, 2020, and funding is to be used for expenses previously incurred.

Langholz says he took on the task of putting the program together for the EDA. He says he worked closely with Owatonna and Steele County and other towns in Steele County just to make sure they were all on the same page. Following the process of other surrounding areas, Blooming Prairie CARES Business Grant Program was created.

“I just had to tinker with it a little bit to get it tailored to Blooming Prairie, but not much.” Langholz said.

Businesses that have received other federal funding such as the Small Business Administration (SBA), Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) or the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) are still able to apply to the Blooming Prairie CARES Business Grant Program. Only expenses that have not been reimbursed by these programs are eligible for the Blooming Prairie grant program. Businesses that have received CARES business grant funding from Department Employment and Economic Development (DEED) or the state of Minnesota are not eligible.

Completed applications can be turned in to the city hall (138 Highway Ave. South) or mailed (P.O. Box 68, Blooming Prairie, MN 55917, must be received by Oct. 12) or emailed to cbp@smig.net.

Blooming Prairie will connect with grantees during the last week in October. They will then distribute the monies the following week, according to the program details.

Based on information gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau from Aug. 30 to Sept 5, 31.8% of U.S. small businesses have experienced a large negative effect from the pandemic. Data from the Small Business Pulse Survey also shows that 45.3% of small businesses in the U.S. believe more than six months of time will pass before their business will return to normal operations.

Reach reporter Ashley Rezachek at 507-444-2376. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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