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County to get more COVID grant funding

By Anna Jauhola
Businesses in Kittson County have another chance to receive grants to help cover costs incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the middle of December, the Minnesota Legislature passed a $216 million relief package that included $88 million for certain businesses that sustained losses of 30 percent or greater. The Department of Revenue will compare businesses’s gross incomes from 2019 and 2020 and those that qualify will receive a certain amount depending on the number of the business’s employees. According to the relief bill, qualifying businesses with no employees will receive $10,000; 1 to 20 employees will receive $15,000; 20 to 100 employees will receive $25,000; 100 to 300 employees will receive $35,000; and more than 300 employees will receive $45,000.
Under the same bill, $114.8 million will be divided out to the counties to in turn give out grants to struggling businesses that did not meet the 30-percent loss criteria.
Kittson County is set to receive $256,250. Of that amount, the county can use $6,250 for administrative costs. The county will likely receive this funding soon and must disburse the funds by March 15.
At its end-of-year meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 29, the Kittson County Board of Commissioners approved handling this round of funding in-house rather than farming it out to a third party.
“The authorizing language is pretty minimal. It establishes some qualifications,” said Dillon Hayes, county administrator.
He said the businesses must be in good standing with the Secretary of State’s office, have to have been impacted by an executive order related to the pandemic, and have to be a business or nonprofit that generates revenue similar to a business.
“Beyond that, we have a lot of flexibility to determine who may or may not qualify, and what our approval process will be,” Hayes said.
Commission Chair Theresia Gillie said the example application Hayes sent out is much simpler than for the previous round. Hayes agreed, saying there are only eight items listed on the application, which are then listed on an Excel spreadsheet for reporting.
“It sounds like a much easier application,” said Commissioner Loren Younggren. “It sounds like something we can handle internally.”
Hayes recommended, and the commission agreed, handling the grant applications and distribution in-house requires a review committee. The commission discussed having one or two commissioners on the committee and reaching out to city clerks from around the county to participate. However, they will decide who is on the committee at the Tuesday, Jan. 5 meeting.
In other business, the commission:
• Approved the annual Tri-Valley RTC transportation contract, which deals with volunteer drivers who provide curb-to-curb medical transport service for people on Medical Assistance.
• Approved changes to land value classifications presented by Assessor Heather Bruley.
• Approved updating the county’s hazard mitigation plan, which Emergency Management Director Scot Olson will handle in conjunction with help from federal and state government officials. The cost of the plan is $38,000, shared on a 75/25 split with the county picking up 25 percent by way of Olson’s time put into the project, so there is no out-of-pocket cost to the county.
• Approved making final payments on three road projects completed this year in the county. The curve on CSAH 7 west of the Kennedy Beet Piler, the canola plant frontage road along Highway 75 and CSAH 14 north of Karlstad.
• Approved the agreement with Schneider Geospatial Professional Services to update the county’s GIS program.
• Approved the contract with the Kittson County Volunteer Ambulance Service for $18,078 for 2021.
• Approved the 2021 Aquatic Invasive Species plan.
• Approved the submitted delinquent garbage bills from towns around the county, which will then be assessed to 2021 property taxes.
• Approved changes in the county personnel policy, including language regarding not extending employee probationary periods and sunsetting longevity pay no later than Dec. 31, 2023.
• Thanked Commissioner Corey Wikstrom for his four years of service on the board of commissioners. Wikstrom will be replaced as District 1 commissioner in January with Nathan Kraulik, who won the election in November.
• Thanked Marilyn Gustafson for stepping in as administrative coordinator while the county searched for and after they hired a permanent administrator.

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