Early this month, Kurk Kramer, EDA Coordinator, announced the Sleepy Eye EDA Emergency Relief Small Business Grant program.

Early this month, Kurk Kramer, EDA Coordinator, announced the Sleepy Eye EDA Emergency Relief Small Business Grant program, which offered $2,500 grants for local businesses directly impacted by the pandemic. At the April 14 City Council meeting the first dozen grant checks were approved. Applications are still being accepted.

How did this local program come about and how is it impacting local businesses?

“I suggested the program to the city manager and EDA Board,” said Kramer. “They all agreed we needed to implement something. We determined the amount of $2,500 per business that was shut down by Executive Orders 20-04 and 20-08.”

On March 16, Gov. Tim Walz issued EO 20-04, ordering the temporary closure of bars and restaurants. On March 18, the governor issued EO-08, which included salons and barbershops in the shut-down order.

Kramer said the EDA Board stipulated the businesses needed to have a commercial or business address to qualify for the grant.

“I figured about 30 to 35 possible businesses could qualify,” said Kramer. “The total amount determined was one that we felt we could provide.”

City Manager Bob Elston said the funds for the grant program come from the carryover of capital expense that wasn’t fully spent in the year it was included in the EDA’s budget.

Kramer added that at the EDA’s April 28 meeting, the board will discuss if anything else will be considered.

The Herald-Dispatch reached out to two of the businesses that received the EDA grants to ask about the impact. Owners of Pollard Dental Care and Friendz Salon answered a few questions and both praised the EDA program.

Asked about the current situation, office manager Barb Windschitl, said Pollard Dental Care is following all recommendations set forth by the American Dental Association, as well as the Minnesota Board of Dentistry.

“Although our office is closed for routine care at this time, we are still providing patients with any emergency care necessary, by appointment,” Windschitl said. “We encourage our patients to contact our office, at 507-794-4361, if they are experiencing a dental emergency or have care questions during this difficult time.”

Dr. Jason Pollard said, “Unfortunately, due to the recommended and mandated closures of all Minnesota dental offices for routine care, the majority of our staff has been furloughed. We do have active employees, allowing the practice to provide emergency care for those patients in need.”

Pollard said they are extremely grateful for the Sleepy Eye EDA grant assistance program during this unprecedented time, due to COVID-19.

“This grant is helpful in allowing our practice to remain open and function on a daily basis, providing care to those in need in our community,” Pollard said. “The application process was easily navigated, EDA board members were helpful, and the simple fact that our community has this relief available for small local businesses is very much appreciated.”

In addition to the Sleepy Eye EDA grant, Pollard said their practice has applied to the EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) assistance program — a federal program through the Small Business Administration.

“At this time, the Minnesota Board of Dentistry, is planning to phase practices back in to routine care beginning mid-May,” said Pollard. “As we have learned, these dates are ever-changing, but we remain hopeful that reopening will occur soon. Our staff is eager for this to occur and begin to provide further care to our patients. The safety and health of our patients and staff remains our top priority, and we ensure this will be upheld, and all recommendations, provided by our professional associations, followed.”

Heidi Braulick, one of the owners of Friendz Salon, said they were told on March 17 at 5 p.m that the salon doors were to be closed. “We no longer could take appointments or be open for regular business,” she said.

Asked about the impact of the EDA grant for Friendz Salon, Braulick said, “The grant we received from the EDA was used to pay all of our operating expenses and we were able to not charge our booth renters rent for the month of April. We really wanted them to not have to pay their rent, considering they are out of a job at this point, too.”

Braulick said they are also hopeful of a plan to allow salons to re-open soon.

“Everyone is hearing the same message right now — that we are planning on opening May 4 — but a lot can change before then,” said Braulick. “We are all crossing our fingers and hoping this does not change. The Minnesota Board of Cosmetology is always updating their site with new information for salons and keeping us up to date on any changes.”

“I do not know the set plan for how we will be safely re-opening,” she said. “We are hoping there will be a way that we can gradually start doing this.”

Braulick said she wanted to add one thing:

“Friendz Salon wants to thank Kurk Kramer and the EDA Board for forming a generous grant like this. It helped each and everyone one of us at the salon. We can not wait to get back to the salon to do what we all love doing! Stay Safe and Healthy.”

Anyone who would like more information on applying for the EDA grant should contact Kurk Kramer, 794-5636 or eda@sleepyeye-mn.com