The Milaca Chamber of Commerce brought attention to the Mille Lacs County Pandemic Economic Relief Grant program and the availability of funds for non-profit organizations. The group felt the County’s criteria was unfair to groups such as themselves and others.
Mille Lacs Economic Development Manager Mike Wimmer addressed the issue at the Feb. 2 county board meeting, stating, “I’ve received a few inquiries from VFWs, legions and chambers. The State is very specific that if you’re a non-profit, you have to act as a business entity and have revenue coming in. Stearns County has been very specific in what non-profits they want to target. The first group priority were businesses closed by executive order through early January and who did not receive a payment from the State. I wanted to expedite aid to those businesses and get the funds to them first.”
Wimmer asked if there was consensus in what the board wanted to do.
Commissioner Phil Peterson said that he would like to see the County proceed with opening up the funding to non-profits such as VFWs, legions and chambers. Peterson asked if non-profits pay property taxes. Wimmer responded that they do not.
Wimmer said, “I think there is a strong argument for non-profits that act as a business, such as a VFW and legion … some counties have limited the funding to having a physical storefront. We do have $70,000 right now, so we can follow the same $10,000 plan we’ve used.”
Commissioner Peterson suggested that the County cap the amount to $5,000.
Wimmer responded, “The State has given broad discretion, and there have been counties that have narrowed it to businesses closed by a certain executive order. We have been more broad. Chambers feel a second effect with membership dues.” He added that the Milaca Chamber does not pay rent to city hall.
Previously, businesses that were awarded grants must have demonstrated that the business was directly and adversely affected by a State of Minnesota Emergency Executive Order in 2020. They must have suffered a 10% or greater loss in Gross Revenue, year-over-year from April through December, have a permanent physical commercial or industrial location in the County, be registered, active and in-good standing with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office, Employ 50 or fewer full-time employees, and have no current tax liens on record with the Secretary of State’s office at the time of application.
The board approved the re-opening of the grant program to include non-profits that generate revenue similar to a business, with grants for non-profits being capped at $5,000. Businesses that were closed by Executive Order 2099 that did not apply for the first grant round may now apply as long as they meet eligibility requirements for loss of Gross Revenue, and any businesses that did not receive a direct payment from the Minnesota Department of Revenue (https://www.revenue.state.mn.us/covid-19-business-relief-payments) may now apply for an additional $5,000 if funds are available.