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County designates $150K for program to help small businesses hurt by COVID-19

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Friday approved designating $150,000 to a new forgivable loan program meant for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city of Albert Lea and the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency are considering designating additional funds to the program at their meetings next week, and some area lenders have also expressed interest in contributing money as well, said County Administrator Tom Jensen.

The funds from the county will be dollars the county received from the startup of the Freeborn Wind Farm.

Jensen said the program targets small businesses with the greatest need, with a priority for those who were not eligible for state or federal funding through other programs.

Businesses will be eligible for between $3,000 and $20,000, depending on certain criteria, such as the number of full-time employees and how much sales have dropped, he said. Businesses must have been in operation since Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency executive order was issued March 13.

“I think we need to do something or there won’t be nothing left in Albert Lea or Glenville or Geneva or Alden or any of our small towns,” District 3 Commissioner Jim Nelson said.

Jensen said the program is meant to provide an influx of funding so business owners can keep afloat on their payments. He noted if businesses fail in the county it could increase taxes for all of Freeborn County.

People who are interested in finding out more about the program should contact the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency at 373-3930.