More than $8,000 in CARES Act relief coming to Chamber

Not only did COVID-19 cost Tracy and area residents a number of fun events this summer, it cost the Tracy Area Chamber of Commerce more than an estimated $8,000 in revenue.

Chamber Director Lexi Erickson told the Tracy City Council at Monday’s meeting that between the Women’s Expo and Box Car Days — combined with advertising and other costs — the Chamber lost $8,080 in revenue. The council responded by approving a budget amendment for the Acceptance of COVID-19 Monies to award the Chamber that amount in federal CARES Act money.

Even a Box Car Days weekend event that did happen — the Miss Tracy Scholarship Program — ended up costing more than usual because of the live-streaming aspect of this year’s show.

“… the streaming equipment was around $400 to get that in,” Erickson said. “And then paying the different spotlight and camera operators … it was more this year because of things like that. And we did put our deposit down for our band (for Box Car Days). Obviously, COVID has affected the Chamber negatively. We appreciate your considering granting us some money from the CARES Act.”

The City received $159,947 in CARES Act funds, and the direct allocation to the Chamber will be through the Small Business Assistance Program.

“This is about helping the Chamber and is a great use of some of these funds,” said Tracy City Administrator Erik Hansen. “It’s an appropriate use for sure.”

The amount of CARES Act monies given to cities is based on population and must be spent by Nov. 15, or it will have to be returned back into the program. Monies can be spent in three areas: PPE purchases, COVID-19-related testing and general public health costs associated with the pandemic.

The City of Tracy has already spent a portion of money (roughly $20,000) on Personal Protective Equipment and things like hand sanitizer.

“We spent money on that before because we had to, but we were anticipating getting that money back,” Hansen said.

The City, which has to file a monthly report to the State of Minnesota on how it’s spending the money, also plans on doing some remodeling at the utilities office at City Hall. After that, the remaining monies will be allocated to small businesses (including non-profits).

“Right now, you have to go outside to get service, unless you’re getting a driver’s license, then you can come inside,” Hansen said. “We have to keep that separate (from other services) and socially distance, and the way that we have our office set up where everybody was inter-mingled together does not meet any of the state regulations for how we want to handle it … this being Minnesota, we’ll have a problem when snow starts to fly — we can’t have people waiting outside in the middle of a blizzard, so we’ve gotta do something different.”

The plan is to remodel the front of the office in a way that two separate lines will be created, with a temporary barrier in between. More permanent glass will be added, as well as other social-distancing measures, so the employees in the office will not have to constantly wear masks. Hansen estimates the project will cost $16,000.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.