We're Here for You, Central Minnesota: COVID-19 Updates


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We're Here for You:
COVID-19 News & Updates

Powering Possible.

Support Central Minnesota Relief & Recovery Efforts

Help Those Hardest Hit by the Coronavirus

A gift to the Initiative Foundation's general endowment goes a long way to cover covers expenses as we work to help small businesses, neighbors who are experiencing lost wages, and those who struggle with food access or who risk losing housing during the COVID-19 outbreak.
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News & Updates

Dec. 23, 2020
Foundation Drives $1.3 Million-Plus in Local Grants

Dec. 10, 2020
Grants Support Distance Learning for Vulnerable Children and Early Childhood Education Training

Sept. 30, 2020
Grants Support Distance Learning, Safety and Programming

Aug. 13, 2020
Special Grant Cycle Focuses on Early Childhood Programs, Distance Learning, Safety

Aug. 11, 2020
Foundation Helps to Deliver Up to $7.8 Million in Small Business Relief Grants

July 22, 2020
Foundation Drives Nearly $700,000 in Regional Grants 

June 23, 2020
DEED to Host Small Business Relief Grant Webinars 

June 19, 2020
Foundation, DEED Partner to Deliver Small Business Relief Grants

June 16, 2020
Foundation Extends Staff Remote Work Time

May 14, 2020
Nonprofits Earn Challenge Awards During #GiveAtHomeMN Fundraiser

April 23, 2020
Grants Supply Some Funding for Child Care Providers; Many Still in Need

April 22, 2020
Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG) Releases Farmers' Guide to COVID-19 Relief

April 10, 2020
Grant Guidelines Change in Response to COVID-19

April 2, 2020
110 Receive Initiative Foundation Emergency Child Care Grants

March 27, 2020
Minnesota Foundations Give Aid to Nonprofits to Help Residents During COVID-19 (Star Tribune)

March 26, 2020
Initiative Foundation Partners in Statewide Emergency Child Care Grants Program

March 26, 2020
How to help from home: St. Cloud-area organizations set up coronavirus relief funds (St. Cloud Times) 

March 24, 2020
Patience Needed As DEED, Staff Develop Emergency Loan Criteria

March 20, 2020
COVID-19 Update: Loan Payment Deferrals Offered

March 19, 2020
Help Those Hardest Hit by Coronavirus

March 16, 2020
COVID-19 Update: Staff Moves to Remote Work

Impact Update

Updated Jan. 15, 2021

Loans, Grants, Partnerships Support More Than 1,400 Businesses, Nonprofits

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Initiative Foundation has partnered with more than 1,400 Central Minnesota businesses and local nonprofits to help bridge the financial strain until economic recovery can begin.
Business Loans: In partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the Initiative Foundation dispersed 56 small business emergency loans with an average of $20,000 per loan and a total value of $1.2 million. The Foundation also has extended options (full deferment or interest-only payments) to more than 40 existing small business loan clients. The value of the loans where deferment options were implemented is $2.85 million.
Small Business Relief Grants: In partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Initiative Foundation is verifying and administering for distrubution an anticipated 766 Central Minnesota Small Business Relief Grants with a total value of $7.6 million. The $10,000 grant awards are being directed to Minnesota-owned and -operated businesses that can demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Minnesota Cultural Mall Operator Grants Program: As part of the state’s effort to provide grant relief to Minnesota small businesses, the Global Center, an indoor cultural mall with 31 tenants on Third Avenue North in St. Cloud, has been deemed eligible for one of 12 cultural mall grants. Seventeen businesses in the Global Center received grants, in total $110,000. Global Center is the only entity outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area to receive a cultural mall grant. The grant administered by the Initiative Foundation requires that 50 percent of the award must be used to forgive the rent of existing tenants.
Pine County CARES Act Funds: The Initiative Foundation partnered with Pine County to distribute 163 grants for a total of $1.05 million to Pine County businesses and organizations through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 
Initiative Foundation Grants: Since March, the Foundation has awarded 111 emergency child care grants with a value of $149,500 to provide immediate relief to providers caring for the children of essential workers. The Foundation also has distributed more than $350,000 in emergency relief grants (food, shelter, basic services support) to regional nonprofits. Another $261,000 has been awarded to support child care organizations, nonprofits and local units of government that support children from birth to age 8 who have been adversely affected by the coronovirus. Additionally, the Foundation has extended to regional grantees the flexibility to use unspent funds for general operations and disaster relief. As a result, more than $45,000 in active grants were reallocated to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Technical Assistance for Nonprofits: The Initiative Foundation awarded a series of grants to nine nonprofits to provide technical assistance with COVID-19-related challenges. Each nonprofit received about 10 hours of technical assistance on topics ranging from fund development to marketing. 
Other Grants: Nine community-based Partner Funds hosted by the Initiative Foundation have dispersed more than $235,000 in grants, in some cases including small business grants, to support local relief efforts.
Underserved Outreach: In partnership with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and its Midwest Early Recovery Fund, the Initiative Foundation has kicked off a yearlong outreach to Central Minnesota communities (Cold Spring, Long Prairie and Melrose) that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort, supported by $160,000, is making inroads for underserved workers and their neighbors, some of whom are new Americans who face obstacles where language and cultural barriers arise. The three focus communities have long benefitted from quality jobs that the meat processing sector brings. However, they also are more likely to experience elevated infection rates associated with the nature of this work.
Total Relief Effort Investments and Lending Accommodations:

More Than $14.1

A special thanks to the Minnesota Department of Education and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund to create a series of three grant cycles to support children birth to age 8 who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks, too, to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for its lending partnership and to the many anonymous donors and Minnesota-based foundations for aligning with the Initiative Foundation to drive crucial grant support into the region, including the Blandin and Bush foundations and the Minnesota Council on Foundations and its Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund on Coronavirus.

Infographic View

Small Business Lending & Resources

Initiative Foundation Partners With Pine County to Deliver $1 Million in CARES Act Funds

This fall, the Initiative Foundation partnered with Pine County to help deliver $1,055,972 in relief grants to 163 businesses. The U.S. government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law in March 2020. Some of the money from the $2.2 trillion package went to counties to support local grants. The Initiative Foundation partnered with Pine County to deliver CARES Act grants throughout September, October and November 2020.

“Part of our mission is to invest in local businesses and organizations that create quality jobs in our region,” said Don Hickman, Initiative Foundation vice president for community and workforce development. “Partnering with Pine County helped them award the CARES Act funds to the businesses that needed it most.”

Initiative Foundation staff also helped Pine County staff identify eligible nonprofits that had expenses associated to adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic or had been closed.

Businesses and organizations received grants totaling $700 to $10,000.

See the full list of grantees here

 Updated July 24, 2020

Foundation, DEED Partner to Deliver Small Business Relief Grants

The Initiative Foundation and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) have forged a partnership to distribute hundreds of small business relief grants in Central Minnesota. The grants will be awarded lottery-style and will be provided to locally owned and operated businesses that can demonstrate financial hardship as a result coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Businesses that employ 50 full-time workers or less will be eligible for grants of up to $10,000. There also will be special carve-outs for businesses with fewer than six employees, minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses and vendors in cultural malls.

For more information, frequently asked questions or to view application questions, visit DEED's website.

55 Emergency Loans Processed to Date

To date, the Initiative Foundation has processed 55 loans for Central Minnesota businesses as part of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's (DEED) Small Business Emergency Loan Program. The loans resulted in $1.2 million in regional economic stimulation.

The Initiative Foundation fielded more than 200 applications and 400-plus inquiries when the DEED Small Business Emergency Loan Program was announced.

For a complete breakdown of Small Business Emergency Loans in Central Minnesota, visit the DEED website

If additional funds are appropriated, and if the lending capital is substantial enough to cover backlogged loan clients and potential new loan clients, the Foundation will re-open the application process using a new and secure web form. Small businesses that missed the initial lending window are urged to save their application information to help them more quickly apply if additional funds become available.

Loan Deferment Opportunity

In addition to supporting DEED and its Small Business Emergency Loan program, the Initiative Foundation has reached out to existing loan clients to offer deferred payments for 90 days. A total of 41 businesses of 134 existing loans have taken deferment or interest-only options, which amounts to 30 percent of the Foundation's lending portfolio. Our hope is that this will ease the strain on local businesses as we all work together to manage through the COVID-19 outbreak and the shelter-in-place restrictions that are affecting our small business partners.

To provide you with timely information on small business assistance programs, we are creating a new Small Business Finance Bulletin. Sign up today to have the bulletin delivered to your inbox.

 The Initiative Foundation does not share or sell email addresses entrusted to us.

About the DEED Small Business Emergency Loan Program

The Initiative Foundation is one of nearly two dozen lenders for this program intended to provide partially forgivable loans to restaurants, bars, hair salons and other public accommodations impacted by Minnesota Executive Orders 20-04 and 20-08. Loans are intended to cover up to three months of operating expenses, and can range from $2,500 to $35,000. The program was funded by the Legislature with a $30 million allocation.

The landscape for emergency programs is shifting rapidly, and application processes and guidelines often cannot keep up with official announcements. We urge small business owners to monitor these emergency finance programs and options:
  • Paycheck Protection Program Loans (PPP): After borrowers quickly ran through an initial $350 billion allocation, Congress on April 23 allocated another $310 billion, with $30 billion set aside to be loaned out through smaller banks and credit unions. Low-interest PPP loans through your primary lender may be largely forgiven if primarily used to cover an eight-week period of payroll costs. Once the new bill is signed into law, the SBA is expected to announce when it will resume taking PPP applications. In the meantime, businesses should collect all required documentation for the program and send it to their lender. This enables the bank to prepare for submitting a client’s application as soon as the program opens again.
  • SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL): The EIDL is a direct loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and it carries advantaged interest rates and terms. It was also topped off by Congressional action on April 23. The program contains a provision for a rapid advance grant of up to $10,000, but the amount of the advance depends upon the number of employees in the business.  Reports from businesses are that approval and funding of these loans has been slow, and the Wall St. Journal reports the average grant size has been just over $4,000. Learn more about the program at the SBA website.
  • SBA Express Bridge Loans: These temporary loans of up to $25,000 are offered through financial institutions authorized to do SBA Express loans. They are intended to provide a bridge loan while waiting for approval on an SBA EIDL loan application and may need to be repaid with the proceeds of the EIDL loan once approved.
  • Minnesota DEED Small Business Loan Guarantee Program: This program funded by the Minnesota Legislature and managed by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) helps local lenders provide capital to small businesses affected by COVID-19. The initial allocation of $30 million in statewide funding will support a limited number of loans. As noted, the Initiative Foundation on April 17 will stop accepting applications at 5 p.m. and will resume only when additional funding becomes available.
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation: The Save Small Business Fund was activiated on April 20. Funds have since been exhuasted and applications are no longer being accepted. This grantmaking initiative offered short-term relief (grants of up to $5,000) for U.S. small businesses that employ between 3 and 20 people. Awards are being processed based on ZIP Code regions and economic distress indicators. Visit the Save Small Business Fund web page for non-financial resources. 

We also encourage you to check out these small business resource pages:

The Initiative Foundation serves the following Central Minnesota counties and communities: Benton; Cass; Chisago; Crow Wing; Isanti; Kanabec; Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe; Mille Lacs; Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; Morrison; Pine; Sherburne; Stearns; Todd; Wadena; and Wright.

Early Childhood Response

Updated Jan. 15, 2021

Special Grant Cycle Supports Underserved Children

In August of 2020, the Initiative Foundation was awarded $416,000 in funding from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund to create a series of three grant cycles. The overarching goal is to support early childhood programming that benefits children birth to 8 who are adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including illness, economic displacement and the interruption of educational and/or development supports.

The Foundation issued the first round of grants in September. The second round was issues in January. The final round will be issued in spring of 2021.

Emphasis will be placed on equity in support of underserved communities, including areas of concentrated poverty, ethnic minorities and/or English as a second language, disabled individuals and/or those in rural areas who lack access to basic early childhood educational services.

Learn more ...

Updated May 14, 2020

Foundation Awards 111 Emergency Child Care Grants

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz reached out to the six Minnesota Initiatives and asked each to create a fund to provide immediate relief to child care providers caring for the children of essential workers. The governor announced the emergency child care grants program during his afternoon COVID-19 update on Thursday, March 26, and by the following Monday the Initiative Foundation had received nearly 800 applications requesting nearly $2 million in aid.
With the funds we had available—$53,500 from the Initiative Foundation and another $100,000 from the Minnesota Council on Foundations and its Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund for Coronavirus—the Initiative Foundation was able to make 111 grants to support home- and center-based child care operations across the 14-county region we serve in Central Minnesota. Collectively, these grants totalled #153,500 and helped sustain care for more than 2,420 children of essential workers.
The top priority was to help essential workers so they could continue to keep our communities functioning. The second objective was to help providers bridge these perilous financial times until the larger source of public funding—via a special $30 million budget allocation by the Minnesota Legislature—could be approved and administered by Child Care Aware.
The Initiative Foundation is deeply appreciative of the Minnesota Council on Foundations for its initial gift. If additional sources of funding become available, we make allocations to providers who applied but unfortunately did not receive a grant due to our limited available resources.
We’ve stopped taking applications and will make the link available for additional grants should sufficient funding become available.
View the list of child care grantees. 

Relief Funds

In March, as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading across the nation, the Initiative Foundation established the Central Minnesota Emergency Relief & Response Fund, which it seeded with $20,000. By June 30, the end of the second quarter, the Initiative Foundation and its Partner Funds that engaged in relief fund efforts (listed below) had disbursed 320 grants worth nearly $700,000 to provide local relief. And the effort is ongoing. View a list of emergency relief grants awarded by Initiative Foundation-held Partner Funds.

  • Greater Pequot Lakes Community Relief Fund

  • Greater Pine Area Emergency Relief Fund

  • Hackensack-Backus Relief Fund

  • Isanti County Emergency Relief Fund

  • Milaca Area Emergency Relief Fund

  • Morrison County Area Emergency Recovery Fund

  • Staples-Motley Area Emergency Relief & Response Fund

  • Sherburne County Outdoor Capacity Relief Fund

  • Three Rivers Community Foundation Emergency Relief Fund

Remote Work

COVID-19 Web Page Spinner Image

Staff Continues Remote Work to Minimize Transmission Risk

The safety and well-being of our employees and our shared communities are of utmost importance to all of us at the Initiative Foundation. For that reason, we will be practicing social distancing by working remotely for the foreseeable future to do our part in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

What this means

  • While our offices may be closed, we are "open for business" and are actively working on important Central Minnesota initiatives. Supported by a suite of remote-work technology tools (secure Zoom meetings, instant messaging, and cloud-based storage, file access and content delivery systems), we are busy delivering grants, loans and programming to the 14-county region.
  • Staff will work remotely from their homes and will not travel for work projects. Visit our staff page for contact information.
  • All Initiative Foundation community-facing events have been postponed, rescheduled or moved to online events.
  • Community rooms at the Foundation's Little Falls headquarters will be unavailable for public use for the foreseeable future.

Helpful resources

We're fortunate that our work allows us to operate remotely. As you consider whether social distancing is possible for you and your organization, we've compiled a list of resources to help. Below, you'll find links for more information on COVID-19 and working remotely.

Stay connected

We're committed to keeping our website and social media channels up to date on office closings, changes in programs or services and other important information. Stay connected during this time. Subscribe to our email newsletters and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

During times such as these, the role of philanthropy is especially critical. We are committed to responding to community needs as they arise, and will remain accessible and responsive by following a solid business continuity plan that balances business operations with the safety of our staff, our friends and our partners.

We also acknowledge that this is a fluid, fast moving situation that may change tomorrow, and we will keep you informed if anything changes and will update this page as warranted.

In the interim, we ask that you put empathy and kindness first. Disease outbreaks can cause fear and disrupt daily lives. Think about ways you can help members of your community who are especially impacted during this time through food insecurity, lost wages and business revenue, child care and school closures, and more.

We also ask that you exercise civility in all your interactions. We're in this together.

Though our shared challenge ahead may be formidable, we remain committed to the communities we serve and to our mission to empower people throughout Central Minnesota to build a thriving economy, vibrant communities and a lasting culture of generosity.