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City to give $25,000 of CARES Act funds to Roseau County

At its regular August 17 meeting, the Greenbush City Council approved giving $25,000 of its $53,718 CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds to the Roseau County Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Grant program. As part of this approval, it made a request to, if possible, earmark these funds for Greenbush businesses.

“I think it’s a good idea that we try to bring something to the table,” council member Christine Foss said prior to the council’s approval. “Obviously I don’t think we’re going to use all of those funds as the city. I think it would be a good gesture for our businesses in town, so I’m all for it.”

On June 25, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz approved the disbursement of these federal CARES Act funds to local governments (cities and counties) across the state in the amount of $841 million. Cities over 200 people received these funds directly. Greenbush fell in the over 200, but under 4,999 population category, so the state multiplied $25 by the town’s population (713) to come up with the $53,718. All towns under 200 people receive their funding from their home county.

As for what other eligible Roseau County towns received CARES Act funds directly, Roseau received $209,069, Warroad $138,475, and Badger $27,273.

These funds can be implemented “to support local government services as well as grants to businesses, hospitals, and individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19,” according to a press release about these funds provided by the Governor’s office.

As Greenbush City Clerk Anita Locken explained, these funds can be used to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and, through grants, help businesses recover funds lost due to COVID-19. According to that press release from the Governor, these funds are eligible to cover costs and “necessary” expenditures from COVID-19 that occurred from March 1, 2020 to December 30, 2020.

So far, Greenbush has used approximately $13,000 of this funding on its own. This has included employment costs related to COVID-19, such as hours spent doing extra cleaning and putting signage up at parks. As previously reported in The Tribune, some of these funds also went to the Greenbush Public Library for COVID-19-related upgrades, including a clear shield around the librarian front desk and partitions at the computer and I-pad stations.

It has also gone to installing a shield around Locken’s city office desk, and purchasing personal protective equipment, such as masks, and extra cleaning supplies.

This left the city with just over $40,000 plus dollars of allocated funds. Asked why the city decided to give $25,000 of these funds directly to the county, Greenbush Mayor Brenda Sather explained how the city was unsure if it would use all of its funds by a November 15 deadline.

At the regular meeting, Sather said she didn’t think the city would use more than a few thousand of these remaining dollars by November 15, due to the restrictiveness of these funds. The city has earmarked remaining CARES Act funds for future miscellaneous expenses, potentially related to mitigation.

If the city doesn’t use the rest of its funds ($15,000) by the November deadline, these dollars could also go to the county’s grant program pool to potentially impact Greenbush businesses as well. After that, any remaining unspent dollars must be given back to the state by December 10, 2020.

Plus, as both Locken and Sather explained, if the city decided to set up its own loan or grant program for awarding these funds to businesses, it would have provided a challenge for it administratively.

“(If setting up a program), you’ve got to look at all of the funding that they (businesses) might have received from another entity so that they’re not double dipping,” Locken said. “If it goes to the county, the county is already looking at all of that.”

As a result, Sather said, the city felt it appropriate to follow the lead of Roseau, a city that gave $100,000 of its own CARES Act funds to the Roseau County Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Grant program. The county also put $1.3 million into this grant program.

This county’s grant program, being run under the management of Northwest Community Action (NWCA), will provide grants of up to $10,000 to qualifying Roseau County businesses, ones that must be for-profit, show a loss in revenue due to COVID-19, and not have received CARES Act funds before this. Applying businesses also are required to have 1 to 50 employees. Grant applications are being accepted from August 5 through October 1, 2020. Locken mentioned how letters are being sent out to Roseau County businesses from NWCA.

Even though the city made a request to earmark $25,000 for Greenbush businesses, that doesn’t automatically mean these funds will be used for this purpose. As Locken said, these funds are provided on a “first come, first serve” basis. Sather liked the chances of Greenbush businesses.

“You’re talking about over a million dollars (in the county grant pool) at $10,000 apiece (per grant),” Sather said. “That’s a lot of businesses that would have to apply before any funds would run out.”

To see the complete story, read the August 26 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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