The Carlton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday, Jan. 25, to approve a second round of COVID-19 relief grants for local businesses.
The funding comes from the County Relief Funding Program through the Minnesota Legislature. Carlton County was allocated $691,466.50 in distribution funds.
There will not be a minimum or maximum award amount, but rather grant amounts will be determined by individual need, according to loan and grant administrator Brenda Nyberg.
The application period for the grants will span from Feb. 1 until 4 p.m. Feb. 16, and will be open to nonprofit and for-profit businesses in the county.
To be eligible, businesses must show an impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses with 1-50 employees will also be eligible, an increase from the last round which permitted businesses with 1-25 employees.
Nyberg said the goal of the program is to target businesses affected by the most recent shutdowns, or those that may have slipped through cracks during the first round of grants.
“The funding priorities … came down mostly from the state,” Nyberg said. “Not to say that we can’t help other businesses, but they do want to prioritize those [affected recently].”
Municipal-owned businesses and chain businesses are not eligible to apply.
County board member Mark Thell, who represents District 4, raised a question about distinguishing private and municipal businesses when both were affected by recent shutdowns and restrictions, citing a liquor store in Barnum.
Nyberg said she has not been contacted by any city officials regarding that concern.
In addition to approving the grant rollout, the board also voted unanimously to approve up to $30,000 of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding to be used by the public health and human services department in purchasing message boards for use at local vaccine clinics.
With vaccine clinics potentially opening in both Carlton and Barnum, public health and human services director Dave Lee said one set of message boards currently available in the county will not be sufficient to operate signs at both clinics simultaneously.
According to Lee, the vaccine situation in Carlton County is rapidly changing and he expects things will soon be able to “ramp up,” meaning both the Carlton and Barnum clinics will need to be in operation.
County engineer JinYeene Neumann explained that the county was already looking into funding another set of message boards.
The county board is also looking to possibly approve more funding to revamp the county courthouse and jail space.
County coordinator Dennis Genereau said he is looking to hire a professional team to assess the space at the courthouse. He would like to see how the space can be arranged to allow county offices to perform effectively and use space efficiently.
"While it is certainly intended to house the jail, there is the possibility that there could be some additional space created by the Law Enforcement Center, which we fully expect to have happen, and there might be an opportunity for some courtroom space in that building," he said regarding the courthouse.
Genereau is expected to present a price estimate for the project in the next week.