Small businesses in Olmsted County could see help covering up to half their net losses attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using $4 million of the $19.1 million the county received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the county is hoping to help as many businesses as possible, especially those that may have been overlooked by other programs..

“We specifically included home-based businesses, because they have been excluded from other state and federal programs,” said Sean Williams of Rochester Area Economic Development Inc., which is administering the county’s grant program.

Williams said the goal is to prioritize businesses with the equivalent of six full-time employees or less, as well as those who haven’t received support through other programs.

Additional preference will be given to businesses owned by military veterans, women and ethnic or racial minorities.

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Businesses mandated to close in recent months also will be given priority on the review process.

Williams said the county has more than 3,000 eligible businesses, with more than 300 expected to meet at least one aspect of the noted priorities.

Up to 160 $25,000 grants could be awarded through the program, but businesses that document less than $50,000 in net losses related to the pandemic will only be eligible for half of the loss, which could increase the number of grants awarded.

Williams suggested any qualified businesses with less than the equivalent of 50 full-time employees consider applying if help is needed.

To qualify, a business must have operated prior to March 1 and must be licensed in good standing with the Minnesota Secretary of State.

While applications won’t be accepted until noon Wednesday, RAEDI has posted the document online at

Applications will be accepted through Aug. 30, with plans to score them in the first weeks of September.

Olmsted County Chief Executive Officer Wilfredo Román Cátala said the goal is to help as many struggling businesses as possible.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a significant blow to small businesses across the county,” he said. “Olmsted County is pleased to partner with RAEDI to provide relief to local businesses during this time of hardship.”

Grants can be used to cover business expenses since March 1, including but not limited to payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills and other expenses in the regular course of business.

It’s help that’s needed, according to RAEDI President Ryan Nolander.

“Through this partnership with Olmsted County," he said, "we hope these CARES Act dollars can provide some assistance to those businesses hurting and help them through this ongoing situation.”