As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the entire country remains in a state of lockdown. While strategies such as social distancing, staying at home, and closing down non-essential business operations is critical to slowing the spread of the disease, there have of course been ripple effects. Nobody has been more negatively impacted in this respect than small and locally owned businesses.

To blunt the ongoing loss of revenue and extend a lifeline to businesses in need, the Granite Falls Area Community Foundation (GFACF) has partnered with the Granite Falls Economic Development Authority (EDA) to launch the COVID-19 Resiliency Program. This program will provide micro-funding to eligible local businesses within the City of Granite Falls who are being impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Funding for the Resiliency Program is being made possible using a portion of the money granted to the GFACF by the Bush Foundation. Specifically, the money is coming from the $200,000 allotted by the Bush Foundation for the development of a community special project.

GFACF Board Chair Alyssa Johnson explained how the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the organization to reconsider how they were going to use the $200,000 special project money. Initially, and after a lengthy discussion process involving community input, “we decided to pursue the idea of a splash pad” to be constructed in Granite Falls. The pandemic “put all of that to a screeching halt,” Johnson said, adding that “once that happened, we saw that project as pretty insignificant compared to what was going on.”

The GFACF first began their COVID-19 response by collaborating with the Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF). The Granite Falls organization donated $5,600 to SWIF to be used in their Child Care Providers grants. Johnson explained that SWIF did not originally have enough funds to cover the grants. “We checked with the Bush Foundation and they were gracious enough to give us the go-ahead to completely fund all of the grants for the child providers in our community who applied,” Johnson said.

The partnership with SWIF got the ball rolling on more ambitious efforts to support the community, something made possible by the flexibility and understanding of the grant managers with Bush. “They realized the situation we want us to be able to do everything we can right now to help our community,” Johnson added.

The next step was to provide grants to other vital organizations in Granite Falls that “were assisting persons in need.” The following have been awarded. Grants are being awarded in the following amounts:
·Avera Granite Falls Health - $2,000 for 4 iPads and additional required accessories for assisted living and care center patients to communicate with family/friends.
·Project Turnabout - $4000 for 4 iPads and additional required accessories for patients to communicate with family/friends and for other CO-VID-19 related emergency needs.
·YMC WRAP - $500 for Almich's gift cards for groceries/personal care items and Cenex gift cards for gas.
·YMC Social Services - $500 for Almich's gift cards for groceries/personal care items and Cenex gift cards for gas.
·YME School District - $2600 for hot spot package and WiFi for students who do not have internet access at home.

“We just saw the need beyond that,” Johnson said, “specifically with our small business in our community.” This is when the GRACF decided to partner with the Granite Falls EDA. Legally, the GFACF is unable to contribute money directly to private businesses, which is why they are now in the process of transferring funds to the EDA to make smaller loans available.

Grants and loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll or accounts payable, or cover other bills that can’t be paid due to the pandemic. To be eligible for a small business loan, the following criteria must be met:
·Be a for-profit, locally-owned business.
·Demonstrate a negative impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.
·Demonstrate positive cash flow prior to the pandemic.
·The business has an established physical address within the City of Granite Falls.
·The business is currently on their city and county property taxes.
·The business is currently with the city electric and water bill.

EDA Director Cathy Anderson explained that the loan money is not intended to fully replace lost revenue or cover all operating costs for the duration of the situation but rather, it is intended to provide some breathing room and/or help businesses invest in measures to adjust operations.

The current deadline to apply for money is 11:59 p.m. Saturday, May 16. Anderson explained that there is a review process involving both the EDA and the GFACF during which they will consider the application. The amount awarded will be determined by the number of applications received and eligibility, however, Anderson noted that submitting an application does not guarantee or promise a business will receive the grant/loan.

Johnson said that because the COVID-19 situation is moving rapidly, there is a possibility that the GFACF will make additional money available in the future. However, it is too early to tell. Moreover, future community support efforts will likely be determined by how many businesses apply during this round and what the need is moving into the summer.

For more information on the COVID-19 Resiliency Program and for links on how to apply, please visit the EDA webpage at https://granitefallseda.com/covid-19-resiliency-program/. Those interested are also encouraged to contact Anderson directly at the city office if they have any questions.