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September 23, 2020

8/7/2020 1:07:00 PM
Chisago City Council reviews process for $135,000 in virus business relief

Chisago City has been allocated $377,901, based on population, in federal funds as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. The funds can be used to reimburse costs of necessary, unbudgeted expenditures incurred by governmental units and local businesses between March 1 and Dec. 30, 2020, as a result of the Covid 19 public health emergency. The funds were issued by the federal government and are administered through the State of Minnesota.

Of Chisago City’s total allocation, $135,000 is earmarked for business assistance. These funds can be dispersed in the form of grants to small businesses to reimburse them for costs related to business interruption caused by Covid-required closures. On July 28, City Administrator John Pechman told the Chisago City Council that after meetings with the city finance committee and Economic Development Administration, he met with administrators from other cities and Chisago County to decide how to best work together on the business subsidies portion of the CARES Act funding. Based on those meetings, Pechman recommended to the council that the Chisago County HRA/EDA receive and review all applications for CARES Act subsidies for local businesses in Chisago City. The county and the city will then work together on fund disbursement.

A letter from Nancy Hoffman, executive director of the Chisago County HRA/EDA, indicated that the county’s Small Business Relief Grant process is just about complete. She said Phase 1 of those grants will focus on businesses that were required to close down as a result of the epidemic. Hoffman’s letter stated the county is ready to open the grants up to those businesses on Monday, Aug. 10.

Phase 2 will begin two to three weeks later covering other business expenses related to Covid 19. In all cases, businesses must have receipts and documentation for the necessary Covid-related costs for which they are seeking reimbursement.

Pechman said he believes the county is putting a $10,000 cap on each grant request. The city may approve up to $3,000 for a Chisago City business seeking reimbursement for Covid-related expenses. If the city contributes toward a grant, the county’s share of that grant will be reduced, Pechman said.

Pechman also presented the council with a tentative plan for using the city’s $242,901 portion.  City expenses listed ranged from the added cost of purchasing extra cleaning supplies, gloves, masks, and sanitizing products, to $40,000 in Covid pay for staff under the Family Medical Leave Act, telework and remote meeting expenses and equipment, and redesign/remodel of the city’s license bureau to meet social distancing requirements for staff and public. The council agreed to allow the finance committee and Pechman to determine what costs to submit and come back to the council for approval.

The city’s portion of the CARES Act funds must be spent by Nov. 15. At that time any unspent funds remaining in the city’s allocation will revert to Chisago County, which must use the funds by Dec. 1. Any remaining funds will then revert to the State of Minnesota. The federal program sunsets at the end of this year.
In other business, the council:

- Approved the $1.875 million budget for the Lakes Area Police Department in 2021 as presented by Police Chief Schlumbohm. This compares to a budget of $1.744 million in 2020. The most significant change was an agreement with the Chisago Lakes Area School District which will now pay nine-twelfths rather than ten-twelfths of the cost of providing police officers in the schools. This means Lindstrom and Chisago City will pick up an additional month of those salaries next year.

- belatedly approved the Chisago Lakes Joint Sewage Treatment Commission’s $905,000 public facilities bond for its five-year capital improvement plan. The action was to have been taken at the council’s March meeting, which was canceled due to Covid 19, and then was overlooked and placed on the agenda last week.

- approved replacement of the fire chief’s vehicle, a 2006 Ford Expedition, which is in poor condition. The council authorized $35,000 for a new 2021 vehicle and $10,000 for additional modifications and graphics.

- accepted with regret the resignation of Cynthia Carlson Paetznick after 15 years of service on the Park Commission.   

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