County Council Candidates Address Business, COVID-19 – Austin Daily Herald
For the fourth article in the Herald Q&A series between Mower County Commissioners Council – District 1 candidates Tim Duren and John Mueller, we asked candidates the following question: What action, if any, do you think the county should take to help Have businesses in Mower County been negatively affected by the pandemic?
Here are their responses.
Before suggesting what Mower County Council should do to help struggling businesses, we need to review what has been done and the county’s role in helping Mower County businesses during this difficult time.
As the state imposed restrictions and closures and people had to change how and where they shop, businesses have continued to suffer. Financial assistance programs to help businesses have been developed and have become available.
There were several programs and honestly it can be a bit confusing to research the programs and their effects. In addition to forgivable loans from the Small Business Administration, other programs have directed funds to government agencies for distribution as grants to businesses, agencies, individuals, and families who have been financially challenged. affected by the coronavirus.
The federal government provided funds to government agencies in the form of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security). Mower County has allocated $ 1,000,000 to businesses to help cover specific costs or losses. Businesses had to apply and qualify to receive funds. Over 100 small businesses in Mower County have received grants under the CARES Act. Additional funds were used to help nonprofits, schools, utilities, as well as families and those struggling with rents and mortgages.
Another round of grants came from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) program. Mower County received nearly $ 792,000 to help small businesses. These scholarships were grants of $ 5,000 to $ 25,000, focused on businesses most affected by the restrictions and closures, such as restaurants, bars and gyms. Hotels were included in this group as their rooms were mostly empty due to lack of events and travel.
More recently, the American Rescue Act was enacted. My understanding is that this will provide $ 7.8 million to Mower County in two allocations. The county will receive $ 3.9 million in 2021 and again in 2022. From the US Treasury’s March 18 fact sheet, it appears the county will be able to direct funds to infrastructure, the broadband, real estate mortgages, rental assistance and areas that won’t just come in handy. recovery, but promote growth in the future.
So in answering the question of what Mower County should be doing to help businesses turn around, I think that process is underway and I hope some of the funds from this latest program can be used to help businesses not only to recover, but to grow in infrastructure financing and business needs and ideas. This conversation between commissioners and stakeholders will continue beyond the April 13 election in District 1 and I hope voters elect me to participate in these conversations.
The past year has been one none of us have ever known. COVID has struck with its fears and uncertainties. We have all made sacrifices and the riding has done its part to support us, its constituents and our businesses.
When I started attending County Commissioner’s meetings last year after deciding to run for office, the concern they had for local businesses was clearly evident. Although the council faces challenges, it continued to prioritize concerns related to COVD while providing normal county services. Recently, the council oversaw the distribution of over $ 700,000 in grants received from the state that was given to businesses affected by shutdown orders authorized by governor’s orders. I believe we must continue to look for other sources of funding that could help our businesses. We are in the process of vaccinating the citizens of Mower County. I think we need to continue to ensure that enough vaccines are available to those who need them. The view has always been that vaccination will bring a return to normalcy and an easing of restrictions that will help all businesses.
The best thing I have seen come out of this is a stronger sense of community and the way we have looked after each other. I have seen people make intentional commitments to support their local businesses. I have seen small businesses start up with strong online support. I have heard of neighbors helping neighbors. As the people of this county, we must continue to encourage each other, take ownership of where we live, and care for those around us. If I am elected as your county commissioner, I would encourage this sense of community and continued support for our businesses. And as has been discussed in this Question Board, I would work hard to do what we can to keep taxes stable to allow growth towards pre-COVID status for businesses in Mower County.
For the first, second, and third question-and-answer articles, see the March 13, 2021, March 20, 2021, and March 27, 2021 editions of the Austin Daily Herald.