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County board approves additional small business relief funding

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved an additional $250,000 in relief for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the county. 

The approval of funding comes as state legislators passed their own relief package for hurting businesses on Monday. 

Freeborn County Administrator Tom Jensen said he would like to see businesses apply for funding from the state Department of Revenue first and then apply for funding locally if they are not awarded funds at the state level. 

Part of the state relief includes funds that will be allocated to counties to distribute to eligible businesses, and then after those funds are exhausted, the county can tap into the local funds. Jensen estimated the county will receive almost $600,000 from the state to distribute, minus administrative fees.

Local funding to distribute is now also at about $500,000, including the county’s $250,000, plus $150,000 each from the Albert Lea City Council and Albert Lea Economic Development Agency. 

“What you’re doing is you’re approving a pretty wide safety net, that you’re not going to lose anymore businesses,” Jensen said during the county board meeting.

Funding that is distributed will be approved by a committee, likely to include Jensen, Albert Lea City Manager Ian Rigg and ALEDA Executive Director Phillip Johnson, along with a board member from each entity.

The entities earlier this year gave out over $800,000 in relief to area businesses. About $175,000 was spent on relief for nonprofits. 

The approval of relief funding comes as Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz was expected Wednesday to lay out the next steps in the state’s COVID-19 response. 

Walz issued an executive order just before Thanksgiving that put a pause on indoor dining in bars and restaurants and closed fitness centers, among other restrictions.

A spokesperson for the governor said the restrictions on indoor dining at bars and restaurants are expected to continue through the holidays, but gyms will be allowed to reopen — but with extra precautions.