City of Sleepy Eye to receive CARES Act funding

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

When the Minnesota Legislature met in special session in June, one of the tasks they expected to complete was a plan to distribute $853 million in federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to communities and counties. Although a funding formula was agreed to, the session ended on June 20 with no legislation passed on the funds.

If the legislature didn’t act on the funds, the governor was allowed to do it himself.

On June 25, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan announced a plan to distribute the federal funding to Minnesota communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding is being distributed based on the per capita formula developed by lawmakers during the special session. Cities larger than 200 people, like Sleepy Eye, get $75.34 per person. City Manager Bob Elston said that amounts to almost $261,000 for the city.

Elston said the city submitted required paperwork to certify intent to follow federal guidelines for the use of funds received.

“I expect we will receive the money later this month,” said Elston. “It is to be used for COVID-19 response related expenses only. As soon as we began having expenses, Michelle [Strate, City Clerk] set up a code for any expense related to COVID-19, so we will easily be able to document our expenses.”

One of the top qualifying expenses for Sleepy Eye is the local business grants from the EDA. Elston said that amounts to nearly $60,000 — leaving the EDA with no funds to loan or grant the remainder of this year. The CARES Act funds will replenish the EDA’s funds so local investment in new or expanding businesses will continue to be possible in 2020.

“We cannot use the money to make up for lost revenue, such as while the Event Center and pool were unable to be open,” Elston said. “But we did have a number of expenses related to technology upgrades. The council members and some staff needed new laptops in order to participate in WebEx meetings, for instance. We also were able to bank up to 80 hours of additional sick leave for each city employee in case they are quarantined or get sick due to the virus.”

Elston said the funds must be spent by November and any balance not spent goes to Brown County.

“Because the city owns the medical center, there are some expenses we can cover there also,” Elston said. “In addition, the medical center did receive some grant funds earlier.”

In March, the Minnesota Legislature approved $200 million for health care grants to support costs related to planning for, preparing for, or responding to the COVID–19 outbreak; $50 million was set aside as short term emergency funding to provide immediate emergency cash flow relief to health care organizations covering their highest priority needs in the first few weeks of the COVID–19 outbreak.

In early April, the Sleepy Eye Medical Center was awarded $75,000 from the short term emergency funding portion of the health care grants. In May, SEMC was awarded $287,000 through the planning and response portion.

Kevin Sellheim, SEMC Administrator, said the majority of the funds are to be used for salaries in support of efforts related to COVID-19.

Sellheim said, “the grant funds will definitely assist in our COVID-19 efforts going forward and help us continue to focus on providing safe patient care.”