The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has started accepting applications for the Cultural Mall Operator COVID Relief Grant Program.

The program, which is part of the Main Street COVID Relief Grant program approved by the Minnesota State Legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Walz, will make grants up to $300,000 to Minnesota-based operators (not tenants) of privately owned, permanent indoor retail space and food markets that have an ethnic cultural emphasis.

A total of $3 million is available for grant awards.

“I am thrilled that this program will help cultural malls recover from the economic impacts they are still experiencing from COVID-19,” DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said in a statement. “This program will help make sure that cultural malls across Minnesota remain vibrant cornerstones of our communities.”

DEED will accept applications through 4 p.m. on Nov. 5. The department on at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 21, will host an informational session to answer questions about the application and program.

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Awards will be disbursed and administered by qualified local and regional nonprofit organizations, according to DEED. Up to $25,000 of grant funds received by cultural mall operators can be used for the operator's own working capital expenses.

The remainder of grant funds must be used to maintain existing tenants of the operator through the issuing of credits or forgiveness of rent.

DEED said in order to receive benefits through the operator grant, a tenant must meet the same eligibility requirements as applicants for the COVID Relief Grant Program. The maximum amount of benefits a tenant can receive is $25,000 in rent credit or rent forgiveness.