Vergas, Frazee share how cities spent COVID-19 funding

By Barbie Porter


Becker County still has COVID-19 funds remaining. Townships and cities returned about $325,000 of the funds that were dispersed, which means there is an opportunity for businesses feeling a financial wrath from the pandemic.

The county received a total of $4.22 million in CARES Act funds.  

Becker County Administrator Mike Brethorst said the funds that were dispersed had federal guidelines it had to follow to utilize the money. Specifically, the businesses had to show a year over year loss and provide proof.

“It couldn’t be revenue replacement,” he said. “It had to be expense based.”

In many cases the funds were encouraged for putting into place safety guidelines at all levels of government.

“The state also recommended 10 percent be allocated, and the county almost doubled that and provided 19 percent,” Brethorst said. 

The county took the returned funds and used them for county expenses that were eligible, such as law enforcement wages. With those expenditures in the budget covered, it opened up funds to provide to county businesses with less restrictions.  

“We are making it as easy as possible with no strings attached,” he said. 

Businesses can now apply for a $2,000 emergency business assistance. The program will remain open until funds are depleted or the assistance is no longer needed.

Eligible businesses must be in Becker County and employ no more than 25 people as of Dec. 15. Funds should be used to cover costs, such as payroll, rent, mortgage, utility and other bills that regularly occur.

Brethorst said he wasn’t certain, but believes the county will get $650,000 in the next round of COVID-19 funding, but that will likely have some restrictions as before. 

He explained he has heard there are three types of funding coming from the state. The first is a direct check to businesses. As he understood it businesses that had to close their doors would be a recipient of those funds.

The next funding package is for large convention centers. 

“I’m not sure if the DLCC will qualify,” he said, adding convention centers didn’t have revenues, but at the same time didn’t have expenses, so reimbursement for lost revenue may not be eligible. However, he thought directly related expenses such as electricity might be.

The final proposed package each county is given an allocation to get funds to businesses, which would be in addition to the $2,000 county emergency grant currently offered.

Vergas expenditures 

of CARES Act funds

From the federal CARES Act funds, Vergas received $27,349. 

Vergas City Clerk Julie Lammers said the CARES Act funds helped the city in many ways. It provided funds for the city council to obtain necessary technology to host virtual meetings and allowed the city to offer refunds.

“We were able to purchase iPads for council members and staff to attend meetings and receive their packet information,” she said. “And, we were able to refund event center deposits and refund part of our liquor licenses to Billy’s, Skal and Otter Coffee.”

If the second relief package arrives to Vergas coffers, Lammers said the council may consider another refund for 2021 liquor licenses, a sanitizer for cleaning all city buildings, remote monitoring of the water tower and continued relief for communities members who are unable to pay their utility bills due to COVID-19.  

Expenditures of the recent CARES Act funds by the city of Vergas were as follows:

• $47 for signs to place at parks, shelters, dock and picnic tables.

• $16 for disinfectant for office and event center.

• $44 for wood for office shield.

• $21 for wood for liquor store counter shield.

• $75 for plexi glass for office shield.

• $40 for plexi glass for liquor store counter shield. • $1,110 for working from home office computer.

• $750 to refund liquor license to Billy’s while the bar was closed. Billy’s has a full service liquor license.

• $75 to Otter Coffee for refund of liquor license while bar was closed. Otter Coffee has a wine license.

• $750 to refund liquor license to Skal’s while the bar was closed. Skal’s has a full service liquor license.

• $161 for virtual meeting license with Zoom.

• $1,422 for payroll expenses due to extra procedures and reports.

• $518 park payroll expenses due to extra cleaning and sanitizing.

• $7,336 for iPads, style pens and meetings on Zoom, for the council.

• $161 for home office printer.

• $4,025 for street, barricades and signage. It was noted this was for when portions of a street was closed to allow bars and restaurants utilize outdoor space for service.

• $ 300 for refund, deposits canceled due to COVID-19.

• $1,990 for COVID-19 sick leave.

• $50 for floor signs for event center and liquor store.

• $1,890 for pump dispenser, adapter, gloves.  

• $225 refund meeting payments due to event center being closed.

• $518 for council iPad set up.

• $625 for COVID-19 cleaning supplies. 

• $5,203 was put toward the purchase of a new, electronic sign in front of the city office.

Frazee expenditures 

of CARES Act funds

From the federal CARES Act funds, Frazee received $105,992. Expenditures were as follows:

• $3,538 in sanitizing and cleaning of the community center and city wide fixtures.

• $1,075 for Zoom charges for meetings and webinar charges for fire department training as well as wireless speaker, tablets.

• $28,989 for eight laptops and mouses, eight printers, toner cartridges and 702 Communication charges for setting up remoting capabilities on computers, program support, toner cartridge, remote radios, keyboards and monitors.

• $38,812 for masks, disinfectants, hand sanitizing stations, dehumidifier, AED, tent rental for outdoor space for restaurants, hot steam cleaner for event center and cleaning city wide fixtures, hot water pressure washer for playground equipment, picnic shelters and boat launching touch age areas, fogger sanitizer machines and thermometers.

• $3,690 for unemployment benefits, employee quarantine and legal fees.