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So just what is this CARES money

By Staff | Aug 16, 2020

OK, there still seems to be a lot of confusion over this CARES Act money, despite our best efforts to explain it in stories in the Register the last couple of weeks about city councils, county board, local economic development authorities and more, and what they are doing with this money.

And to be truthful, it is pretty confusing. There are lots of rules about the funds and how to use them.

But if you boil it down, it basically is a bunch of ‘free’ money coming down the pipe from the federal government to local counties and cities.

Of course it isn’t really free. We and our children and grandchildren will be paying this all off for years to come, I would guess. But, that is another story.

Right now, the money is meant to help out local governments which have been hit by this COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the local economy.

And, what that means locally, is that businesses in Faribault County can get some of this money, pretty much simply by asking for it.

In Blue Earth, just as an example, the city has given $100,000 of its $241,000 in CARES Act funds to its EDA to disperse to local businesses. They decided to give $500 to every business that fills out a short and easy form.

Why $500? Well, let’s just say there are 200 businesses in Blue Earth. And each one gets $500. I wasn’t ever very good at math, but I think that totals $100,000.

But, let’s say not all 200 businesses in Blue Earth ask for the $500. Or maybe there are not 200 businesses in Blue Earth. What happens then?

Well, the EDA says they will do a round two and give away (I mean disperse) the funds to some of the same businesses who already got the first $500, but need some more funds.

The city and the EDA have a deadline to get this done, so they are already starting this program. Perhaps you already noticed an ad about it in last week’s Register.

This week there is also an ad from the city of Winnebago. There the city gave its EDA $30,000 of its total $100,000 in CARES Act money to disperse to local businesses. And there they are giving out grants up to $3,000 to local Winnebago businesses.

Wells also has money to use and has decided to give some of it to local businesses, modeling their program after what is being done in Winnebago and Blue Earth.

Ditto for the County Board, which is holding special work sessions to figure out where it is going to disperse its $1.7 million in CARES Act funds. They have a lot of places to use the money, but one place will probably be for local businesses affected by the coronavirus business shutdown as well.

These local government boards did not have to disperse any of the CARES Act funding to local businesses. It was mainly meant for them to use in their various city and county departments to help with their recovery from being shut down, or to purchase items to help them manage to cope with the COVID-19 rules.

They were encouraged to use about 10 percent of the funds towards local businesses, as well as using some of the funds for local educational and health related entities, like schools and healthcare facilities.

But locally, the County Board and cities decided 10 percent was not enough to help local businesses. In Blue Earth, for example, they are using about 40 percent of the money to go to businesses. In Winnebago it is 30 percent.

They have all said at their meetings that they realize our local small town businesses have been hit hard this year by all this COVID-19 state rules, business shutdowns, etc., and they want to help.

Personally, I applaud them for their efforts.

So, if you are a small business owner, I urge you to check out these programs and do it soon. The contact information is included in the ads in this week’s Faribault County Register, or simply call your local City Hall.

The deadline for cities to have the funds dispersed, spent, and recorded and documented is Nov. 15. After that date, all remaining unspent funds go to the county. The county then has another month or so to try and disperse them to where they are needed. After Dec. 15, any unused CARES Act funds in Faribault County go back to the federal government, from whence they came.

And, one more thing. Maybe you wonder what this CARES Act stands for. Well, not that it really matters but it is the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed by the Congress.

Congress’s intent was to get some emergency relief funding down to the very local level, to try and make an immediate impact.

I sure hope it does.

With all the plans for this money being made by our local government bodies, it looks like it will make an impact on our Faribault County economy.

At a time when it is really needed.