Brainerd will receive just over $1 million in funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
City Finance Director Connie Hillman told Brainerd City Council members during their meeting Monday, July 6, Brainerd’s share of the $841 million allocated to the state is $1,034,572. There are three distinct guidelines for determining what the funds can be used for, Hillman said:
Expenses must be necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Expenses cannot have been budgeted for in the adopted 2020 budget, or the cost cannot be lawfully funded or is substantially different from a line item in the budget.
Expenses must have been incurred between March 1 - Nov. 15, 2020.
The city submitted a certification form to the Department of Revenue June 29 and expected to receive the funds within 6-8 business days.
Staff will return to the July 20 council meeting with details on the associated costs the city has incurred since March 1, Hillman said, along with a list of items the funds could be used for and the estimated amount to be used outside the city for constituents.
Council member Jan Lambert asked if that meant the money could be used for more small business grants and if those grants might be spread out to a wider group than the city’s initial grant program.
In June, the city, along with the Economic Development Authority, distributed $90,000 in relief grants to 40 small businesses in Brainerd. Nonprofits, churches and businesses generating any income from gambling were exempt from the grant.
Council President Gabe Johnson said an expanded grant program is something the council can discuss.
“I’ve been watching this since the federal government spent the money in March. It’s been distributed to most other states already, and a lot of them are doing the small business grant thing,” Johnson said. “A lot of them are reimbursing themselves for their PPE (personal protective equipment) and customer service hours and whatnot. I think we could reimburse ourselves for the grants we already sent out — that grant money — then I think it would be an appropriate use of funds to do more small business grants and perhaps expand the pool a bit to make sure we’re catching everybody that was directly impacted by COVID. So that would include the Elks or VFW or Eaglers or Legion or other people that operate restaurants but weren’t eligible for this last round.”
Johnson added Hillman is working with staff at Brainerd Public Utilities to determine any unbudgeted expenses BPU incurred during the pandemic.
Spending the funds will be further discussed at future council meetings.