Downtown Small Business Relief Fund

Downtown businesses have experienced unprecedented challenges in 2020 in the face of COVID-19 and construction. Viewing downtown’s continued vibrancy as vital to the overall success of Rochester, a generous private donor has stepped up to establish a grant fund to support downtown businesses through this challenging period. A number of interested private parties have contributed financially and in kind to bring this to fruition.

Evaluation Priorities

Grant funders have established the following priorities to guide distribution of funds:

  • Maintain “vibrancy” of downtown through pandemic winter without significant business loss. This means focusing grant funds on independently-owned retail, restaurant, or event venue businesses that occupy brick and mortar storefronts at the street, skyway, or subway level. This includes independently owned franchises.
  • Support businesses that demonstrate their long-term commitment to operating downtown.
  • Support businesses that have demonstrated their willingness and ability to adapt to current challenges. Businesses will be asked to demonstrate their commitment to operating safely, and explain their work to adapt or innovate their businesses.
  • Support businesses that have not been well-served by other government aid opportunities.
  • Support minority and women owned business enterprises.


To apply for a Downtown Small Business Relief Grant, businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • Be located in downtown's special service district (SSD) area.
  • Be a non-hotel hospitality business: retail, restaurant/bar, event venue.
  • Occupy a visible, brick and mortar storefront at the street, skyway, or subway level.
  • Be independently owned with fewer than 50 FTE.
  • Demonstrate that the business was operating in good standing on March 13, 2020.
  • Be able to produce a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and be in good standing with Olmsted County Health Department.
  • Demonstrate a 15 percent decrease in revenue from March - August, year over year.
  • Any applicant that owns multiple business locations shall not be precluded from applying for grant funding for each location, but shall be expected to provide information related to each business's organizational structure.
  • Non-profits that meet the above criteria are also eligible.


  • The maximum award amount is $20,000 per business. Applicants may be funded for amounts below or above what they requested.
  • There is no restriction on how the applicant business uses grant funding. Applicants will be asked how they will use the funding as part of the competitive grant process.
  • Employees of any of the funding or administering organizations may not apply. Board members of these organizations may apply but must recuse themselves front grant discussions and evaluation.
  • Applying for this grant will not disqualify you for additional funds from other government or private programs. Applicants will not be disqualified in the event that they have received funds from government or private programs.
  • Applying for a grant does not guarantee receipt of the grant.

Application and Review

Grant applications will be reviewed in two rounds.

Round 1 will ask for basic information about the business and will be reviewed by a financial professional. All businesses who meet the requirements of the first round will pass to the second round. Round 1 applications are now open and close September 18, 2020.

Round 2 will ask more detailed questions about how the applicant has responded to current economic challenges, and will also ask about business plans for the future. This round will be reviewed by an independent jury. Interviews may be requested by jury or applicant for clarification if needed.


  • September 10: Round 1 application opens
  • September 18: Round 1 application due by 11:59 p.m.
  • September 21 - 24: Round 1 applications assessed by financial professional.
  • September 25: Round 1 results shared with applicants. Round 2 application opens.
  • October 2: Round 2 applications due
  • October 2 - 9: Round 2 applications reviewed by jury. Jury finalizes distribution.
  • October 12: Grants announced and distributed

With questions about the Downtown Small Business Relief Fund, please contact or at 507-216-9882.