Crow Wing County commissioners made their preferences known Monday, July 27, in finalizing the application process for coronavirus relief grants.
The board is expected to weigh in Tuesday on how the county will distribute its $8 million allotment from the federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. Monday during a special committee of the whole meeting, commissioners deliberated the details of what criteria they’d like set for qualifying businesses and nonprofits and at how much to cap grant amounts.
Grant applications were developed in conjunction with Tyler Glynn, executive director of the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp., and Kim Rollins, executive director of Lakes Area United Way.
As proposed, the business grants would be limited to those with 50 or fewer employees that were temporarily closed due to executive orders from Gov. Tim Walz. Applicants must have a physical commercial location in Crow Wing County, whether owned or leased. Commissioners agreed Monday to add the requirement the principal business owner must be a Minnesota resident.
Those ineligible for business grant funds are those providing professional services, such as accountants or attorneys, and those who primarily generate income from gambling activities.
As for nonprofit grants, eligible entities include those who can demonstrate an increase in demand for services or expenses due to COVID-19. The organization may also apply if it can make an impact for individuals or the community in response to the coronavirus or related issues. Nonprofits must also have a physical location in Crow Wing County and must have been operating since March 1, 2019. Those ineligible are religious organizations without a social services component.
Commissioners said they’d like to see grant totals capped at $10,000, meaning qualifying businesses or nonprofit organizations can apply for a grant up to that amount. But the county board left the door open to higher amounts, should demand be less than expected. In addition, $1 million of the $8 million is set aside to be shifted to any of the funding priorities: county government reimbursements, business grants, nonprofit grants or broadband expansion projects.
Commissioners heard an update from CEO Kristi Westbrock and Steve Gilbert of CTC telecommunications company on those broadband expansion proposals. Focusing in on fiber installation to Camp Vanasek in Baxter — which may be used as a distance learning center this school year — and a narrower area around Borden Lake near Garrison than was proposed last week, Westbrock said she spent time ensuring the projects would be able to pass an audit of the use of CARES Act funds.
Also included in CTC’s proposal was funding to help cover the cost of providing WiFi access points throughout the community to aid in distance learning efforts and COVID-related broadband installations completed from March to May. Westbrock said CTC was in the process of surveying customers to determine how many of those new installations were directly related to needs associated with telework, distance learning or telemedicine. She said any funds the company receives to cover those costs would be reinvested into broadband projects in 2021.
Commissioner Rosemary Franzen asked the CTC representatives to also provide information on a project previously mentioned in Lake Edward Township, suggesting the scope be narrowed to the corridor running along County Highway 13. The board was expected to review those figures Tuesday if provided.