Grant program to funnel money to small businesses

Published 5:10 pm Thursday, September 23, 2021

Small business owners have another opportunity to get some help with a new relief grant offered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEEDS).

The $64,200,000 made available by the state for the Main Street COVID Relief Grants program will be available between $10,000 and $25,000 grants.

It’s another step in the right direction, according to John Garry, Development Corporation of Austin executive director.

“I think area businesses and non-profits really need to get all the help they can get,” Garry said. “I don’t want to discourage anybody, but I do think there will be a lot of applicants.”

The grants are designed to target small businesses in some specific areas that include military veterans, women, and Black, indigenous, and people of color.

To qualify, these businesses:

  • Must employ six people or fewer, and/or 
  • Must not have received previous assistance from other state relief programs.

“I think it’s really important they continue to make sure it’s a broader eligibility list,” Garry said. “I think the openness to non-profits that function like a business is good. There are actually quite a few non-profit service clubs that have food.”

The biggest factor, however, could be the short timeframe open to applying for the grant. The application period opened on Sept. 20 with the grant deadline being 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 29.

Garry speculates that part of the reason might be a desire to get grant dollars to small businesses as quickly as possible, while taking a necessary amount of time to choose which businesses get the money.

“It’s pretty short, no doubt about it,” Garry said. “I think DEED is really committed to getting this money once it’s allocated to the businesses as quickly as possible.”

After the deadline, DEED will review applications and the awards will be disbursed and administered. The money awarded can be used for working capital that supports payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills and similar expenses that occur or have occurred since March 12, 2020.

The news of the grant program is welcome, Garry said, but at the same time, he’s been happy to see Austin’s own small businesses endure like they have during the pandemic.

“Looking back to April or May last year, more businesses have managed to stay in business than I think people were expecting,” Garry said. “I think Austin is generally a more stable community. There were a lot of people who kept working through that.”

Fore more information, along with application information, visit: https://mn.gov/deed/business/financing-business/deed-programs/emergency-programs/main-street/.