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COVID-19 News & Updates
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Help Those Hardest Hit by the CoronavirusA gift to the Initiative Foundation's general endowment goes a long way to cover 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. Give Today!
News & Updates
Aug. 3, 2022
Relief Grant Partnership Sends $16.2 Million to Regional Small Businesses
June 8, 2022
Foundation Awards $1 Million-plus, boosting 15 Central Minnesota nonprofits
May 9, 2022
Microenterprise Grant Opportunity Announced
Feb. 9, 2022
Transformative Funding for Nonprofits Announced
Oct. 26, 2021
Foundation, DEED Partner to Distribute Minnesota Main Street COVID Relief Grants
March 23, 2021
Grants Support Small Early Childhood Educators
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
Loans, Grants, Partnerships Support 2,400 Businesses, Nonprofits
- 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, received 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.
- 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.
- Transformative Funding for Nonprofits: Thanks to grant support from the Otto Bremer Trust, the Initiative Foundation awarded $1 million to 15 nonprofits to support transformative projects. The recipient nonprofits received awards ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 for a total of more than $1 million in support. See the list of grantees.
Small Business Lending & Resources
Updated Oct. 7, 2022
Otto Bremer Trust Partnership Delivers $675,000 to Regional Small Businesses
Nearly 90 pandemic-affected businesses receive microenterprise grants supported by the Otto Bremer Trust
The Initiative Foundation has awarded $675,000 to 86 of Central Minnesota’s smallest businesses affected by the pandemic. The special grant program, supported by the Otto Bremer Trust, focused on businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans, and those located in smaller communities and rural areas.
“These grants support businesses and owners who navigated severe disruptions and challenges over the past two years, and in many cases weren’t eligible for or able to access other forms of relief,” said Brian Voerding, Initiative Foundation vice president for inclusive entrepreneurship. “We’re grateful these businesses are able to continue meeting community needs and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs across our region.”
Businesses who demonstrated that they had been affected by closure orders, loss of revenue or increased costs received between $5,000 and $10,000 based on the number of people employed.
Updated Aug. 3, 2022
Relief Grant Partnership Sends $16.2 Million to Regional Small Businesses
A two-plus-year collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has culminated in more than $16 million delivered to 1,500-plus Central Minnesota small businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19. Since the onset of the pandemic, the Initiative Foundation, through collaborative partnerships with state and federal organizations, has pivoted to drive grants and loans to where they are most needed.
“Central Minnesota business owners have suffered losses, supply chain challenges and other difficulties as we’ve navigated through these times,” said Matt Varilek, Initiative Foundation president. “These grants didn’t completely solve the economic strain on local businesses, but we hope they offered some relief to help them get through the disruptions.”
In August 2020, the Initiative Foundation began awarding grants to businesses hardest hit by the pandemic through DEED’s Small Business Relief Grant program. The 2020 effort ended with $7.4 million awarded to 742 small businesses. Work continued in late 2021 on a second round of small business relief grants and wrapped up in June 2022. That effort saw a total of $8.8 million distributed to 785 Central Minnesota businesses. All told, the project delivered $16.24 million to 1,527 businesses.
Updated June 12, 2021
Pine County Partnership Delivers $1.6 Million in CARES Act Funds
This fall, the Initiative Foundation partnered with Pine County to help deliver $1.6 million in relief grants to 244 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 March 5, 2021
Foundation, DEED Partner to Deliver Small Business Relief Grants
In partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Initiative Foundation distributed 766 Central Minnesota Small Business Relief Grants with a total value of $7.66 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.
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, was one of 12 cultural mall grant recipients statewide. 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.
53 Emergency Loans Processed to Date
To date, the Initiative Foundation has processed 53 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 $1.18 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.
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.
- 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:
- Minnesota DEED COVID-19 relief information page for businesses and employers
- Minnesota DEED Safely Returning to Work Guidance for businesses
- North Central Small Business Development Center, Brainerd
- SBA COVID-19 Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources
- St. Cloud Small Business Development Center
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce COVID-19 information page
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Coronavirus Business Resource Guide
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. 11, 2023
Minnesota Department of Education Grants Support Learning Recovery; Food Assistance and Crisis Child Care Services
In July 2021, the Initiative Foundation was awarded $250,000 in funding from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund to support vulnerable children impacted by COVID. The definition of vulnerable includes: ethnic minorities and/or English as a second language; low-income; special needs; and/or those in rural areas who lack access to basic early childhood educational services.
Learn more ...
In March 2020, 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
Return to Office
Staff Returns to Hybrid Work
As COVID-19 community transmission levels continue to ebb, the Initiative Foundation has made the decision that staff can return to a home-and-office hybrid style of work. We will continue to monitor community health indicators from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health and take actions as warranted. Beginning June 1, our offices will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays and by appointment on Tuesdays through Fridays.
If you should find the doors locked, please ring the doorbell to the right of the front doors or call (877) 632-9255 for assistance.
We're committed to keeping our website and social media channels up to date on any changes to office hours, 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.
- Minnesota Situation Update for COVID-19 (Minnesota Department of Health)
- Know Your COVID-19 Community Level (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)