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City to participate in Small Business Relief Grant program

The Austin City Council unanimously approved a motion to forward a vote on the City participating in the Mower County Small Business Relief Grant program during its work session Monday evening.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners recently approved the Small Business Relief Grant program to provide the funding from the county’s allocation of federal CARES Act funds. Up to $1.25 million in federal funding is available to assist Mower County small businesses, nonprofits and animal agricultural producers who have suffered financially from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The County partnered with the Development Corporation of Austin (DCA) to administer the grants. Grants of up to $10,000 will help entities cover payroll, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills and operational expenses, including cleaning and disinfecting supplies as well as personal protective equipment,incurred since March 1, 2020. Once approved, businesses and nonprofits should receive grants by the end of September.

Applications must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 31.

To qualify for County funds, businesses must be:

• Able to demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• An employer of the equivalent of 50 or fewer full-time workers.

• A business, nonprofit or animal ag producer who has a permanent physical location in Mower County.

• Majority-owned by a permanent resident of Mower County or an adjacent county in Minnesota or Iowa.

• In good standing as of March 1, 2020, with the Minnesota Secretary of State and Minnesota Department of Revenue.

City Administrator Craig Clark proposed the City participate to supplement eligible applications. The City would work with the DCA on applications, but make modifications that would eliminate the agricultural producer, non-profit business and limit the eligibility for those businesses in Austin.

The City would use the same eligibility parameters as the County when determining who will get funds. Clark said that businesses could apply to the City and the County; however, businesses may not receive grant funds from both.

After speaking with DCA President and CEO John Garry, Clark said it was felt a $200,000 funding level was a reasonable amount for City participation. The City would utilize fund balance from the general fund for its portion of the grants.

Should the number of applicants exceed available funds, businesses will receive a ranking to the degree their business was impacted by COVID-19.

The Council will officially vote on the measure during its next regular meeting on Sept. 8.