East Grand Forks’ Economic Development Authority is set to give out $80,000 worth of loans to four businesses that have been wholly or partially shut down by Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19 orders.
Members of the development authority’s board agreed on Tuesday, Jan. 5, to give $20,000 apiece to Casa Mexico, Eagles Aerie #350, Little Bangkok and Mike’s Pizza Pub under a “targeted” loan program they put together last month to help businesses affected by the governor’s closure orders.
Al-Huda Islamic Center also applied for that same sum, but it isn’t a restaurant, movie theater or arts space, per se, and, thus, development authority staff and board members felt it did not fit within the loan program’s guardrails. The board voted 5-1 to not issue a loan to Al-Huda. Tim Johnson, an East Grand Forks City Council liaison to the board, was the single “nay” vote.
But that doesn’t mark the end of the development authority’s largesse: Board members also considered the contours of a second loan program financed by East Grand Forks’ city government. That program is still in the works, but it would dole out $260,000 worth of “forgivable” loans to Eastside businesses restrained by the governor’s coronavirus precautions.
Forgivable loans don’t need to be repaid if their recipients meet certain agreed-upon criteria -- staying in business for X years afterward or retaining Y number of employees, for instance -- and development authority board members and a subcommittee composed of city staff and development authority officials will come up with those stipulations this week and next.
Board members on Tuesday went back and forth over the merits of, for instance, paying each business that applies for that $260,000 equally or changing the size of each loan based on financial need. Board member Diane Blair suggested including transportation-minded businesses, which have reportedly struggled despite not being specifically impacted by Walz’s orders.
Beyond that, Polk County is in line for $622,143 from a business relief bill approved by Minnesota lawmakers last month. East Grand Forks businesses, in turn, can receive $200,000 of that total. City leaders are set to recommend to county commissioners a list of Eastside businesses to receive that money.