Learn about the Initiative Foundation's COVID-19 Response


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Initiative Quarterly

Initiative Foundation COVID-19 Response

Powering Possible.

Support the Central Minnesota
Emergency Relief and Recovery Fund

Select a tab below for information and updates on emergency business loans, emergency child care grants, area relief funds and more.

Help Those Hardest Hit by the Coronavirus

Contribute to the Central Minnesota Emergency Relief and Response Fund to help those experiencing lost wages, who struggle with food access or who risk losing housing during the COVID-19 outbreak. You also can make a gift to the Central Minnesota Emergency Child Care Fund to help area providers keep their doors open to serve the children of essential workers. And, as always, we welcome your gifts to the Initiative Foundation's general endowment, which covers expenses related to the administration of these emergency funds and other essential response resources.
Maximize your giving: During April and May, GiveMN is returning its portion of transaction fees—about 2 percent—back to organizations that receive donations on GiveMN.org.

Scroll down and select the Relief Funds tab to give to one of our community-hosted Partner Fund response efforts.

Proceeds will be used to make grants to nonprofits and local units of government to assist disproportionately affected communities; to address the economic impacts of reduced and lost work resulting from the outbreak; to meet immediate needs of economically vulnerable populations caused by coronavirus-related closures; and to respond to increased demands placed on our stressed social support systems.

Your gift will immediately be turned around to licensed child care providers across Central Minnesota who are serving the region’s essential workforce. Without our child care providers, many parents in Central Minnesota's essential workforce could not perform day-to-day duties required to keep our communities safe, especially health care and emergency personnel, during this COVID-19 pandemic.


News & Updates

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

March 27, 2020
Minnesota foundations give emergency 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

UPDATE: Emergency Lending Programs & Resources

 Updated April 3, 2020

Application Review Begins for DEED Emergency Loan Program

To date, the Initiative Foundation has fielded 200-plus applications and more than 400 inquiries in relation to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's (DEED) Small Business Emergency Loan Program. We currently are working through qualifying applications and managing them against the $1 million in DEED funding that has been allocated.

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 for $30 million.

As more applications come in, Initiative Foundation staff members are logging them in the order in which they are received and will reach out to applicants for additional information should new DEED money becomes available. In the meantime, consider some of the following sources as you manage through your response to the COVID-19 epidemic. Some programs include the potential for partial or full forgiveness, and all have favorable terms. The landscape for these programs is shifting rapidly, and application processes and guidelines often cannot keep up with official announcements. Here are some of the programs and what we know about them:

  • Paycheck Protection Program Loans (PPP): This attractive new federal program was created as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently passed by Congress. The intent is to cover payroll and some other operating costs during the emergency. If the loan is used for payroll purposes as outlined in the guidelines, it may be forgiven. Although this program was intended to start on April 3, there are indications banks may need to analyze updated guidelines before accepting applications. We encourage businesses to monitor SBA’s website and news from your bank or credit union as this program develops.
  • SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL): This was the first emergency loan program publicized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and it carries highly advantaged interest rates and terms. The program also contains a provision for a rapid advance of $10,000 that may be forgivable. It appears that SBA is still accepting applications for this program, and we have heard that after a rocky start the application process is working more smoothly. Learn more about the program and how to apply at the SBA website.
  • Minnesota DEED Small Business Loan Guarantee Program: This program was recently created by the Minnesota Legislature. Loans would be provided through traditional lenders, and the State of Minnesota will provide up to an 80 percent guarantee to the lender. The initial allocation of $10 million to this program will fund a limited number of loans, and at present only a limited number of lenders have enrolled to offer these loans. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development website contains more information on lenders and eligibility.

We also encourage you to check out these COVID-19 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.

Child Care Response

Updated April 2, 2020

Foundation Awards 110 Emergency Child Care Grants

With available resources of $150,500, the Initiative Foundation the week of March 31 awarded 110 emergency child care grants to Central Minnesota providers who care for children of emergency and essential workers across the region.

The Emergency Child Care Grant Program for Central Minnesota was launched with a $50,000 allocation from the Initiative Foundation and $100,000 from the Minnesota Council on Foundation and its Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund for Coronavirus.

First-round grant awards have depleted available funds. However, we continue to seek additional resources and will act on a second round of grants should funding be secured. 

Launched in concert with its five Minnesota Initiative Foundation sister organizations, and at the request of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, the Initiative Foundation's Emergency Child Care Grant Program was intended to serve as a financial bridge to other sources of funding for the area's child care providers. Grant awards were directed to providers in all 14 Central Minnesota counties who serve a high number of children (birth to 5) of first responders, emergency personnel, health care workers or anyone else deemed essential to work during this crisis. 

Learn More & Apply

Applications continue to be accepted; however, available grant resources were depleted during the first round of grant-making. We continue to seek new sources of revenue to support additional grants. Should we attract more funding, we will pursue a second round of grant awards.

NEW: Child Care Aware Opens Peacetime Emergency Child Care Grants Program

Child Care Aware has opened the application process for its Peacetime Emergency Child Care Grants program to support licensed Minnesota child care providers serving essential workers during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The $30 million Peacetime Emergency Child Care Grants program was approved by the Minnesota Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz on March 28 as part of the state's COVID-19 Response Supplemental Budget.

View Eligibility & Apply

Read Our News Release: Initiative Foundation Partners in Statewide Emergency Child Care Grants Program

Read Our Message to Early Child Care Providers: Emergency Grant Program to Support Essential Workers

Read the Governor's News Release: Minnesota Initiative Foundations to Serve Emergency Child Care Need in Greater Minnesota

Relief Funds


The Initiative Foundation has created the Central Minnesota Emergency Relief & Response Fund and seeded it with $20,000 to support regional areas of need. We've also invited our Partner Funds (the Foundation hosts 130-plus funds from throughout the 14 counties of Central Minnesota) to create their own community- or sub-regional relief and response funds. Stay tuned as more regional funds are added. 


Flexibility for Existing Grantees

In addition to activating the Emergency Relief and Response Fund, the Initiative Foundation has reached out to more than 50 regional grantees with open Innovation Fund grants to offer them the flexibility to use unspent funds to support general operations and disaster relief.
“This is a stressful and demanding time for many organizations across the region as they work to support the most vulnerable people in our communities,” Varilek said. “We hope that by making grant funds more flexible, we can help cushion the financial impacts of the coronavirus outbreak so that these organizations can focus on providing critical services.”

To date, more than $45,000 in active grants have been reallocated to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. 

COVID-19 Web Page Spinner Image

Staff Transitions to 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, beginning March 17, we will be practicing social distancing by working remotely until further notice to do our part in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

What this means

  • We’re not closed. We’ll continue working on our projects and initiatives using the remote-work technology tools we have at our disposal to communicate and take our meetings online.
  • Initiative Foundation community-facing events will be postponed and/or rescheduled.
  • In-person meetings for staff (external and internal) will be structured as phone/video calls.
  • Staff will work remotely from their homes and will not travel for work projects. Visit our staff page for contact information.
  • The Initiative Foundation's community rooms will be closed for the duration of this operational change and will resume only when this remote work transition has been lifted.

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 avoid social stigma or discrimination toward people of Asian descent, people who have traveled and emergency responders or healthcare professionals. Stigma hurts everyone by creating fear or anger towards other people.

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.