New small-business relief grant program signed into law

One of the first things to happen during the special session was the passage by the House and concurrence by the Senate of a COVID-19 small business relief grant program. Gov. Walz signed the bill into law Tuesday.

The bill creates a $62.5 million grant program aimed at providing relief to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on businesses ordered to halt operations by Gov. Walz’s executive orders. Of the grant total, $31.25 million will go to businesses in Greater Minnesota. The Greater Minnesota grants will be awarded to businesses via a partnership between the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the six Initiative Foundations, with grantees receiving up to $10,000.

To be eligible for a grant, a business must be in Minnesota, owned by a permanent resident, and have a permanent physical location. Businesses must be in good standing with the state as of March 1, employ 50 or fewer full-time workers, and be able to demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. Priority will be given to businesses that were restricted from operating at more than 50% capacity by executive order on May 18.

Of the full $62.5 million allocation, a minimum of $18 million must be awarded to businesses that employ six or fewer full-time workers. A minimum of $15 million must be awarded to minority-owned, female-owned, or veteran-owned businesses. And a minimum of $2.5 million must be awarded to operators and tenants of ethnic markets.

Grants will be awarded based on a lottery system. Once DEED is ready, it will open an application period of up to 10 calendar days for businesses to apply. Once the application period is closed, DEED will run the lottery and notify the Initiative Foundations of the selected recipients. At that time, the foundations will process the grant awards for the businesses in their regions.

DEED will have more information on the grants and application process in the coming days.