Freeborn County to receive over $3M in relief funds

Published 4:22 pm Friday, June 19, 2020

Administrator: Guidelines outline what funds can be used for


Freeborn County is expecting to receive $3.7 million through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds that have been allocated to the state, the county administrator said this week.

Tom Jensen

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About $316 million has already gone to the state’s most populous counties — Hennepin and Ramsey counties, and $841 million will be given to smaller governments.

Freeborn County Administrator Tom Jensen said during the Tuesday Board of Commissioners meeting that every small city with a population of 50 or higher, along with townships, will get some money through the program.

There are clear guidelines on what those funds can be used for, he said. The money can’t be used for lost revenue or wages unless those wages are directly tied to COVID-19.

Jensen said the $150,000 that the county and city each designated to a new forgivable loan fund to help small businesses hurt by COVID-19 in Freeborn County will be able to be given back to the county and city and replaced with funds through the CARES Act. He said 10% of the $3.7 million must be used for economic recovery.

So far, he noted, as of Monday afternoon there had been 61 applications for the funds through the forgivable loan program, and he encouraged people whose businesses may be struggling to apply.

“We want people to apply, especially with the influx of this CARES money,” Jensen said. “We’re going to have some money that’s available that’s not directly related to our levy that’s available for those resources.”

To be eligible for the funds, businesses must have 25 or fewer employees, must operate in Freeborn County and must be able to demonstrate a loss of 50% or more in revenue during the stay-at-home orders related to COVID-19.

Loan amounts awarded will range from $3,000 to $20,000 and will be based on how many employees the business had as of March 1. A preference is given to businesses that did not receive federal or state COVID-19 relief funds.

Representatives from the city, county and Albert Lea Economic Development Agency will select the recipients of the funds.

In other action, the board:

• Appointed Phil Wacholz as the new county highway engineer. The appointment will be first for a one-year period but after that will likely be four years at a time. He will start June 29 and has already started meeting with staff on his own time.

Wacholz will replace former engineer Sue Miller, who resigned in April. Jensen said her last day was June 5.

• Voted to accept the recusal of 3rd District Commissioner Jim Nelson on any action related to the proposed single wind turbine for Renewable Energy Group and Juhl. Nelson owns the land where the turbine is proposed to be placed.

• Accepted two donations from Cargill — one for $2,000 for the Crime Victims Crisis Center and one for $1,000 for the COVID-19 response.

• Approved adding a consent agenda to regular board agendas, where routine business can be placed, such as ditch repairs and some employee matters.

• Approved an amendment to a conditional use permit for ITC.

• Approved consolidating two lots owned by Dave and Brenda Sorenson and giving them the right to build an accessory structure.

• Approved a conditional use permit for Robert Ball to construct a rural seasonal cabin in Freeman Township.

• Approved a services agreement between The Children’s Center and Freeborn County Department of Human Services.

• Approved writing off six uncollectable debts through the Public Health Department totaling almost $2,750.

• Approved a grant project agreement with Minnesota Department of Agriculture for the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program.