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City Council designates $150K toward program for small businesses hurt by COVID-19

The Albert Lea City Council on Tuesday designated $150,000 to go toward a forgivable loan program set up to provide relief to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The program, which is a partnership with the city, Freeborn County and the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency, targets small businesses with the greatest need, with a priority for those that were not eligible for state or federal funding through other programs. 

ALEDA Executive Director Phillip Johnson said a business has to show a loss of 50% of their sales or revenue to be eligible and has to have 25 or less full-time employees. 

Loans available will range from $3,000 to $20,000, depending on certain criteria, and will be at zero percent interest. Johnson said the loan will be fully forgivable if that business remains in business after five years. Loans will be forgiven at a rate of 20% per year on the anniversary of the loan funding for each year the business is fully operational. 

First Ward Councilor Rich Murray said he thought the program was critical to the businesses in Albert Lea. 

“This might just be the little bit of a jumpstart they need to open back up again,” Murray said, noting he hoped it would help the businesses remain open in Albert Lea. 

Freeborn County Commissioners voted last week to designate $150,000 to the program, and the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency is slated to designate additional funds at its meeting this week. 

Johnson said ALEDA had already heard from 15 businesses after the county’s vote. 

The city portion of funding comes from an economic development fund the city had in place from surplus dollars in previous years to help bring new businesses to the community. 

Howland said though this wasn’t the original intent of what the funds would be used for — as they were initially meant to bring in new businesses and help current businesses expand, the funds will now be used to help current businesses stay afloat. 

People who are interested in finding out more about the program should contact the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency at 373-3930.