ELY – A new community relief financial program designed to help businesses here get back on their feet following a shutdown of commerce due to the coronavirus pandemic has tentatively been approved. The announcement was made Tuesday by the Ely Economic Development Authority. As much as $125,000 in grant money will be soon be coming to EEDA from the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation’s Taconite Area Community Relief Grant Program.

Businesses that are having issues with job recruitment and job retention, and others who are looking to expand their business and may be having trouble raising capital, are eligible to apply for a one-time forgivable loan of up to $25,000. The city’s economic development leaders applied for as much as $400,000, but applications far exceeded the $2 million IRRB had available. “The reward will be smaller but the effectiveness will be what we are trying to portray,” said Ely’s economic advisor John Fedo. With the EEDA’s 25-percent match, Ely City Clerk Harold Langowski said the financial program will include options for forgivable loans for several local businesses.

“We have had two businesses call and ask about this program already,” he said. “We will be able to offer a $25,000 loan at one-percent interest, and if they can retain new employees for at least two years, this could be forgivable and they won’t have to pay it back.” The money to local businesses should be available by the end of August, he added.

“While this is a loan program, if the businesses meet all the requirements, this would be a grant,” he said. Eligible businesses are required to hire at least two employees at a wage of at least $15 per hour and retain them for at least two years. Mayor Chuck Novak suggested a greater investment from the EEDA, perhaps as much as $20,000 additional dollars to offer more help for local businesses through the program.

Langowski added, “Hopefully we will have more businesses ready to go by our next meeting.”

Originally publish by Keith Vandervort in the TimberJay