WORTHINGTON — A full staff report will now be prepared by Oct. 1 as the city of Worthington continues with the next step of administering its Small Business Assistance Grant Program.

Worthington Assistant City Administrator/Economic Development Director Jason Brisson noted Monday that the application window for the program closed at 5 p.m. Sept. 15. A total of 188 applications were received, with the requested amount adding up to $1,024,227.80.

The city allocated $700,000 of its CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act dollars to the program, while Nobles County matched the city at 2-1. That means $2.1 million is available to businesses, and that the total funding requests currently have a sum of less than half of the money the program can allocate.

“It’s possible that we can tweak the amount of each tier (of funding for applicants) so that we distribute $1.5 million,” Brisson said. “Yes, we only got a million in requests, but these are probably the businesses that need the assistance the most.”

Brisson indicated 26 of the 188 applications were submitted from entities located in Nobles County communities besides Worthington — which aren’t served by the city’s program — while at least 20 came from ineligible home-based businesses. That means 142 applicants will tentatively be eligible for funding, with the final number and corresponding allocations to be determined in the upcoming report.

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“I would like the lion’s share of this money to go out in this round,” said Brisson, noting that it’s possible that money remaining from the first budget cycle could still be made available at a later date to other entities that didn’t qualify for funding initially. Money not used by the city’s program will ultimately be returned to the state.

The Small Business Assistance Grant Program, as designed, makes grant funds 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.

Non-profit organizations also aren’t eligible for funding through the program, Brisson noted, while home-based businesses are only eligible if they’re operated in a separate structure on the property, he said — unless it’s a daycare. The EDA will likely “take another look” at seeing how remaining program money could be distributed to those who didn’t qualify under the original guidelines, he added.

“We have $2.1 million in funds in the program and it looks like we will have far short of that in requests,” Brisson said. “We know that there’s 550 busineses in Nobles County, and we got applications from 188 of them. … If we had gotten 400 applications I’d be a lot more nervous about our local businesses, but the fact that we got half of what we were prepared to get is an encouraging sign.”

Brisson said that businesses who opted to not apply for funding likely either weren’t aware of the program, couldn’t demonstrate the 10 percent decrease in revenue required or weren’t forced to close.

In the meantime, a review of the applying businesses is underway with the hope that distribution of money can soon begin.

“Our intention is to get through this process as quickly as possible so we can disburse the money to these businesses,” Brisson said. “Some of these businesses are hurting really badly and need help now.”