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Three strategies to help our region in response to COVID-19

“Northland was formed in response to the economic crisis of the early 1980s. That’s our history. We’re wired to step up when times are tough.” —Tony Sertich, President

The Northland Foundation was created out of the economic crisis of the early-mid 1980s, the “last one out of town, please turn off the lights” era. During this new crisis, the foundation has doubled down on its strategic priorities, getting funding and technical assistance out into the region in three main ways.

Within days after Minnesota declared a peacetime state of emergency, the Northland Foundation pivoted and ramped up its programs to support relief efforts in northeastern Minnesota. In the weeks since Governor Walz instated statewide measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, the foundation has focused available resources on supporting the people, businesses, and communities in the region being hit hardest by the crisis.

By partnering with other organizations, the Northland Foundation was able to quickly raise $2 million to support response efforts, as well as provide information and technical assistance throughout the region.

1. Grant funds to nonprofits and Tribal Nations to support the increased call for help with basic needs for the most vulnerable in our region;

2. Consulting help and financing for small businesses; and

3. An Emergency Child Care Grant Program.

“The Northland Foundation has and will continue to offer as much support as we can with grant resources, financing and business consulting help, and information as our region navigates through this situation,” stated Sertich.

Targeted grants

In the first quarter of 2020, the Northland Foundation awarded 129 grants of more than $551,000. Northland then put its usual grantmaking process on hold to devote funds to essential needs for people most vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic. Northland also gave current grantees flexibility with timelines and use of funds as they try to meet increased demand for their services.

In early April, $171,000 in strategic response grants were awarded to (1) increase food access and for other essentials, and (2) support programs serving survivors of domestic or sexual abuse, a growing area of need during the pandemic.

Aid for small businesses

The Northland Foundation was named a certified lender for Minnesota’s Small Business Emergency Loan Program to help businesses affected by shut-down orders, and was awarded $1.3 million to process no-interest loans for businesses in the region.

The Northland Foundation also hosts the Northeast Minnesota Small Business Development Center (SBDC), supporting a regional team of consultants. Consultants across the region have been offering in-demand technical assistance to entrepreneurs wading through the variety of federal and state assistance programs and needing to adjust their operations in a changing environment.

Support for child care providers

Governor Walz reached out in March asking if Northland and the five other Minnesota Initiative Foundations could help child care providers serving children of emergency and essential workers. Northland and its colleagues across Greater Minnesota immediately established an Emergency Child Care Grant Program within their respective rural region. Nearly 300 applications from northeastern Minnesota providers flooded in to Northland, far more requests than dollars available.

With help from funding partners, Northland Foundation was able to raise more grant money in order to award $238,000 to 180 licensed family and center-based providers in our region. The providers who received grants ($1,000 for family child care and $3,000 for center-based child care) have expressed great appreciation for this opportunity, as they have been managing with fewer children in their programs while also paying for extra health and safety supplies.

Staff members working from home: How to contact us

The Foundation's office will remain closed at least through the end of May, while our team works from home. Email is the easiest way to contact a staff member! Click here to read more.