WORTHINGTON — The city of Worthington is taking nothing for granted in spreading the word about its new Small Business Assistance Grant Program.

The city has teamed with Nobles County to provide grant funds to small, private, for-profit businesses whose operations have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications for the program are already being accepted and can be submitted until 5 p.m. Sept. 15.

“The city allocated $700,000 of its CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act dollars to the program and the county was kind enough to match us at two-to-one,” Assistant City Administrator Jason Brisson explained earlier this week. “They (county) contributed $1.4 million to the program, so there’s $2.1 miillon there.”

“I’m not aware of any other instances where a city and county have come together in this way,” Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson added. “The county and their board was extremely generous with matching their funds at a two-to-one level, and I think that it’s unprecedented.”

Grant funds are available to businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees that have experienced at least a 10% revenue loss year over year from between March and May 2019 and March and May 2020. The businesses also have to have been restricted at operating at a greater than 50% capacity as a result of Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders pertaining to COVID-19.

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Brisson said while non-profit organizations aren’t eligible for funding through the program, daycare operations are. Home-based businesses are only eligible if they’re operated in a separate structure on the property, he said, unless it’s a daycare. These and multiple other guidelines — along with the application — can be found by visiting the city of Worthington’s home page (ci.worthington.mn.us) and clicking on the links directly below the “Public Notices” header (available in both English and Spanish).

“We would encourage everyone who thinks they may qualify to apply,” Brisson said.

“There are going to be a number of applicants that will likely be brought to the policymakers — city Economic Development Authority members and county commissioners — for consideration,” Robinson said.

The city has hired a temporary employee to assist in marketing the program and compiling a report detailing all applicants. The report must be prepared by no later than Oct. 1, but Brisson indicated he’s hopeful grant awards can begin around the time of September’s Worthington City Council meeting.

“I think the message we’ve gotten from our elected officials was their commitment to helping small businesses, and that is going to lead us in the direction that we’re going,” Robinson said. “We’ve said from the very beginning that we weren’t going to do a lottery system or do this first-come, first-serve. All those deemed eligible are going to receive funds.”

The city/county Small Business Assistance Grant Program has been modeled on guidelines put forward by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Brisson promises the city will be “responsible and do this (program) in a fair and equitable way” to make sure funds “get to businesses that need them.”

Applications are available at Worthington City Hall as well as online. Submitted applications must include a signed and notarized affidavit (there’s a notary at City Hall) as well as a completed W-9 form.