BEMIDJI -- Residents west of the downtown Bemidji area looking to complete projects on their home will soon have some financial assistance available.

On Monday, the Bemidji City Council announced it was successful in obtaining a grant from the Small Cities Development Program. Run through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the program provided the city with $388,125 for the rehabilitation of single family, owner-occupied housing.

The grant dollars will be focused on homes in an area bordered by 15th Street Northwest to the north and Eighth Street to the south. The area extends west a few blocks past Norton Avenue and is bordered to the east by Irvine Avenue, 11th Street and Park Avenue.

"Over the years the city has had a number of small city development grants, some of them just for single family and others for rental," said City Manager Nate Mathews. "This program will connect about 15 homes with some grant money, based on what the scope of the projects usually are and the dollars that are available."

During the planning and applying process for the grant, the city contracted with the Headwaters Regional Development Commission. On Monday, the council approved a new contract with the HRDC to implement and manage the grant dollars. The $50,625 contract cost will be paid through the grant funding.

The funding will be provided to homeowners via 0%, deferred forgivable loans. After 10 years, if the property is not sold, transferred, conveyed or refinanced, the loan to the resident will effectively become a grant.

Eligible improvements to homes include repairs to shingles, gutters, siding, windows, doors, electric utilities, plumbing and heating. Energy efficiency projects are also eligible.

The HRDC can be reached at (218) 444-4732.

Business assistance

While no action was taken on the subject Monday, the council also discussed providing help to local businesses trying to bounce back from coronavirus impacts. During the conversation, ideas shared included potentially allowing stores to use sidewalks, or possibly close streets, to give them more space for proper social distancing.

The importance of not singling out certain types of businesses and creating a plan to help all entrepreneurs was also noted in the discussion.