Cities, counties ramp up small business relief – Finance & Commerce

More financial assistance for distressed businesses is on the way as local cities and counties…

More financial assistance for distressed businesses is on the way as local cities and counties roll out relief packages for everything from payroll costs to utility payments.

One such program is in Dakota County, which recently launched a program to provide $10 million in federal CARES Act money to help small businesses struggling from the economic downturn induced by COVID-19.

Through the Small Business Relief Grant Program, Dakota County businesses can get up to $10,000 to cover payroll, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills and operational expenses incurred since March 1, according to the county.

“Through this program, we hope to stabilize businesses hit hardest during temporary closures and business changes as a result of COVID-19,” Dakota County Board Chair Mike Slavik said in a statement.

Partners in the program include the Dakota County Community Development Agency and program administrator NextStage. The county and its partners are accepting applications through Aug. 14.

Funding is available to private, for-profit Dakota County businesses with 50 or fewer full-time workers. The business must be able to demonstrate “financial hardship” as a result of the pandemic, the county said.

In addition, qualifying businesses must be majority-owned by a permanent Minnesota resident, and in “good standing” with Dakota County, the city in which its located, the Minnesota Secretary of State, and the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Chris Gerlach, a county commissioner and Dakota County CDA board chair, said businesses “have suffered tremendously, and every job we can save means more economic security for all of us during these challenging times.”

The cities of Burnsville and Bloomington announced similar programs this week.

The Burnsville City Council agreed to distribute roughly $1 million of its $4.7 million CARES Act funding to a program that will offer up to $20,000 in grants to local businesses affected by the pandemic.

The Burnsville CARES Business Grant Program is open to businesses of all sizes, according to the city. Businesses can apply through Aug. 14 at

Jenni Faulkner, Burnsville’s community development director, said the city wanted “to be inclusive to all businesses whether it was a single employee business or one of our larger retailers. We are also creating a fair playing field by instituting a lottery system.”

Through its Small Business Emergency Assistance Program, the city of Bloomington is making $1 million available for eligible small businesses and $300,000 for self-employed independent contractors. Maximum loans are $7,500 for small businesses, $3,000 for independent contractors.

Applications are due Aug. 3. More information is available at

Meanwhile, Ramsey County is offering up to $5,000 in rent and mortgage assistance for county residents who lost income because of COVID-19 and need help paying for housing costs, the county said this week.

Adults with children and those who are pregnant can receive up to $5,500 in rent or mortgage assistance, single adults can receive up to $3,000 in rent or mortgage assistance, and families and single adults can receive up to $3,000 in utility assistance, the county said.

Also this week, the U.S. Department of Transportation unveiled an $11.2 million grant program to help women- and minority-owned businesses compete for federal highway grants in 47 states. The funding includes roughly $200,000 for Minnesota.

The U.S. DOT grants are part of the Fiscal Year 2019 Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/Supportive Services program.

As previously reported, Hennepin County is allocating $21 million of CARES Act money to help small businesses weather the COVID storm. The money is targeted to the most vulnerable businesses, including those with no more than 20 employees and self-employed people.


County funds lift small businesses