MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is proposing an investment of $37 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars to help the city's small businesses.
The mayor held a news conference Thursday to announce his proposed spending plan on Thursday at Wendy's House of Soul, joined by several local small business owners.
Frey said he wants to use that $37 million for new economic recovery investments, focused on small business support, investing in Black-owned businesses and Black property ownership, job training and placement, and investments in the designated cultural districts of Minneapolis. These allocations would be part of a larger $89 million proposal for those federal dollars. More details about his proposed spending can be found online.
“The big news is this," Frey said Thursday. "Our city is coming back, we are rebounding in a big way.”
Frey said the federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan are an "opportunity" to support businesses and workers that have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This money is fashioned to reignite our city,” he said. "This money is fashioned to bring us back in an extraordinary way."
The Minneapolis Forward Community Now Coalition helped to decide on priorities for the funding, Frey said.
He said that one key area identified was a need for financial support not only for Black business owners to operate, but specifically so that they can own the property on which their business sits. Part of his proposal includes a $10 million commercial development fund for this purpose.
“Because of their great work, the values of the properties rise,” Frey said. "The rents get jacked through the roof and the people that have made these neighborhoods wonderful to begin with get the boot through displacement."
Another $17 million is proposed for direct business and worker assistance, to pay down loans and make sure some businesses that have closed have the ability to reopen quickly.
Frey said one in four Minneapolis residents has filed for unemployment, so a workforce development program needs to be up and running to get people back to work and place people in open jobs. For that reason, the mayor is also proposing an ambassador program "to make sure that those community connections are bridged right from the get-go.”
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Some funding would also be allocated for the six cultural districts throughout the city, Frey said.
“We want to make sure that these areas are revitalized,” he said. “Sadly but truly, a lot of the areas that were hit worst by the pandemic are the same businesses and the same corridors that were hit most by the unrest following the murder of George Floyd."
Frey highlighted his guaranteed basic income program, which is currently in pilot mode. It allocates $3 million to give $500 payments each month to 200 families.
“This is important monies and important relief that is going to communities at a critical time," Frey said.
The mayor took a moment to applaud Heather Warfield and Wendy's House of Soul as one of the many small businesses that pushed through the difficult past year.
"I want to send my full appreciation to them and all of the work that they’ve been doing during that time," he said.
Warfield, the sister of owner Wendy Puckett, spoke briefly, saying, "We’ve been very fortunate. We’ve been able to keep our doors open, we’ve been able to keep all of our staff."
Kenya McKnight Ahad, president and founder of the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance, also spoke. Her organization serves Black women entrepreneurs in north Minneapolis. Ahad thanked the mayor for listening to her group's ideas.
“We got together last year to really push on this economic recovery and the sort of impact it has to have on Black, Brown, Indigenous and immigrant communities across our city," she said. "What you’re hearing today is just the starting place, it’s not the ending. It’s a starting place that we’re really proud of."