Damage recovery, relocation grants offered, with priority for businesses around soccer stadium

By Jane McClure

After weeks of debate over organ­izational structure, the Midway United Fund is now accepting applications for “economic justice” grants to small businesses that were affected by rioting and evictions in the Hamline-Midway and Union Park neighborhoods. The grants are available until December 20 or until the money runs out.

The grants are being overseen by the Neighbors United Funding Collaborative (NUFC) and come in two forms—a Damage Recovery Program and a Rebuild or Relocation Program.

The NUFC has raised more than $349,000 for the first program and is offering businesses up to $15,000 to pay for smoke and water cleanup, new glass, replacement of stolen or lost inventory, and any other damages suffered in the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd in late May.

The NUFC has more than $500,000 available for the second program and is offering businesses up to $50,000 for rebuilding due to fire loss or help with relocation costs due to eviction.

Priority will be given to businesses within a half-mile of Allianz Field. Those along the University Avenue corridor within three miles of the soccer stadium must prove their businesses were affected by the civil unrest. Businesses must have annual sales revenue of $2 million or less. Information on applying is available at midwayunited.org.

The Midway United Fund was originally launched by the Saint Paul City Council and local district councils to provide funds for community-building, economic development, public arts and other projects in the neighborhoods around Allianz Field. The Union Park and Hamline-Midway councils have led the planning and have oversight of the fund, working with the Saint Paul Foundation and the NUFC’s advisory committee.

 

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The NUFC and its advisory committee have been a flashpoint over the summer, clashing over who should be on the committee and how it should operate.

Earlier this year, the fund allocated grants to small businesses affected by the pandemic. After businesses were looted, damaged and set ablaze in late May, the fund shifted to providing assistance on that front.

The NUFC and its advisory committee have been a flashpoint over the summer, clashing over who should be on the committee and how it should operate. People of color felt the committee did not represent the neighborhoods and pushed white members to resign. The committee is now more diverse, with community development veteran Isabel Chanslor calling herself the interim fund manager.

The district councils questioned the time it has taken to get grants disbursed and what were seen as personal attacks on their staffs. The Hamline-Midway Coalition bowed out of its fiscal role in July, and the nonprofit Nexus stepped in.

The notion of paid collaborative staff has drawn objections, including from City Council member Dai Thao. He and some district council members said money should go to businesses, not staff.

Chanslor said the collaborative has raised separate funds for administration, and funds donated for businesses are only being used to aid those merchants.

Union Park board members at a recent meeting brought up the prospect of spinning off the business development fund and having the NUFC go back to its original purpose. Chanslor said that is something the committee has discussed as it looks at ways to support the Midway, its small businesses and arts community.

“I feel hopeful about the fund,” said City Council member Mitra Jalali. “It feels as if we’ve turned a corner. We need to get resources out to the community. That’s what’s really important.”

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