More help on the way for small businesses in Douglas County

At Monday’s Alexandria City Council meeting, the council agreed to put another $250,000 into a program that provides grants to help small businesses and nonprofits recover from the pandemic.

Requests for help from small businesses and nonprofits in Alexandria and Douglas County that are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic has been “overwhelming,” according to city leaders.

In August, the Alexandria City Council and the Douglas County Board agreed to set up a program for local businesses and nonprofits using money they received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act.

So far, there have been 188 applications for $5.1 million from a pool of $3.3 million. The county put in $3.2 million and the city contributed $105,000, according to City Administrator Marty Schultz.

The applications, which were due by Sept. 4, are currently under review. Not all of the applications will be eligible for the program but Nicole Fernholz, director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission, said she expects the pool will fall about $250,000 short of meeting the qualified applications.

But more help is on the way.


At Monday’s Alexandria City Council meeting, the council agreed to put another $250,000 into the program, allowing more applicants to receive grants.

Before the action was taken, council member Bill Franzen asked Fernholz how many of the applications were from within the city. She said that about 64% were from within the city and 36% were from greater Douglas County.

To qualify for a grant:

  • For-profit businesses in the county must show their gross revenue dropped at least 25% between March 1 and May 30, compared to the previous year, because of COVID-19.

  • The grants are for small businesses with 100 employees or fewer. Employees may be either W-2 employees or independent contractors.

  • Nonprofits can request up to $50,0000 based on need.

The city has received a total of $1,051,000 in CARES Act funds but hasn’t spent all of it yet.
Besides its $105,000 contribution to help small businesses, the city has used about $100,000 and is looking at spending about $400,000 on other improvements, such as new plumbing fixtures, Schultz said. Even after those expenses, Schultz said the city will be able to accommodate Fernholz’s request.

Mayor Sara Carlson supported the decision. “It’s being put back into the economy,” she said. “We’re not giving it away.”

If the city doesn’t allocate all of its CARES Act funds, the leftover amount will go to the county and if the county has any unallocated funds, the money will go to the state.

In related action, the council approved a monthly report of how it is using CARES Act funds for local government activities.

Allocations for August totaled $33,531 and included $10,077 for employee services that were dedicated to mitigating or responding to COVID-19; $13,193 to buy personal protection equipment, hand sanitizers and stands, and miscellaneous supplies; $2,749 for providing and updating telework capabilities for staff to work from home; $5,113 for providing paid sick time and paid family leave; and $2,400 in liquor license refunds, COVID-19 training meals and emergency grant writing expenses.


Combined with the expenses in July, the city has now used $43,910 of its CARES Act funds for local government activities.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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