The Blooming Prairie City Council on Monday approved a proposed Coronavirus Relief Funding Allocation that distributed funds to four areas — small business grants, facility upgrades, expenses caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and city official payroll expenses.
Blooming Prairie was awarded $150,078 in COVID-19 relief funding by the state of Minnesota. The funding must be used in a specific way and meet requirements set by the state. Expenses must have been incurred during the COVID-19 public health emergency and as a result of the emergency. The expense must also be reasonably necessary in the eyes of the city officials responsible for the funds and the funds must be used to take action to remediate the incurred expenses.
These expenses must not be accounted for in the city’s budget which was already approved on March 27.
Specific dollar amounts for each allocation is yet to be determined, as quotes for the various expenses are still coming in. Langholz says he is working with Steele County and other cities in the county to determine a unified approach.
About $40,000 will go toward small business assistance programs and grants. This number is based on estimates still being developed.
“I don’t have firm numbers on this yet,” City Administrator Andrew Langholz presented the plan to the council which said, while adding the number could go up.
There is a possibility that the county may also chip in some funding, but that is not certain. The council’s motion made the Economic Development Authority responsible for leading the grant program. It will be contacting local business owners to encourage them to apply for reimbursement for COVID-19 related expenses.
Currently there is not an estimate for facility upgrades in the city hall, which were not a part of the city’s budget. These facility upgrades would include improvements intended to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and increase government meeting transparency. Funds could possibly go toward updating the bathrooms with touchless toilets and automatic soap and towel dispensers. A potential HVAC upgrade could help improve air circulation inside government buildings.
“Another possible idea would be to televise our meetings,” Langholz added, he says city staff is looking into bids.
Funds would pay for other COVID-19 related expenses such as equipment for government workers to work remotely, IT support, PPE, cleaning supplies, sneeze guards and signage. The city has spent about $8,000 on these items already, but the total will increase as the November deadline to incur COVID-related expenses approaches.
The final allocation would go to the Police Department and city administrators’ payroll. The city plans to use the remaining funds to help pay for a portion of the payroll expenses.
“So that would be a fluid number,” Langholz said.
Other cities have put their entire funds toward this just this section, but he felt the other funding areas were important to cover.
If funding is found to be used inappropriately, the city could be required to reimburse the state. However, Langholz is confident that the proposed plan would be within the funding rules. He says many other cities are allocating to similar projects.
The council voted unanimously to approve the plan.