MAY 2020 – Volume XVIII — Number 5
Compiled & edited by Deb Miller Slipek, Ann Treacy, and Jane Leonard

PLEASE NOTE: GIVEN the rapidity of information updates during this COVID-19 time, we encourage you to re-check all dates/info noted in the listings below when you get to the websites from the URLs listed here.  We are not repeating resources provided in April’s newsletter even though some are still available.

Also find the Rural Round-Up online at:

  • Across the Field:

Across the Field:

Please join 100 Rural Women  next week as they open the first in a series of online meetings to honor and learn from rural women at the “The Women’s Rural Breakfast Club” on Tuesday, May 19th, from 8-9 a.m.

Rural women have always been at the forefront of positive change, collaboration, and community and economy building — before, during, and after disasters like Covid-19. I continue to be inspired by the rural woman I am named after, Sarah Jane Romans Bezanson (and those who came after, standing on her shoulders).

Known as “Aunt Jane” to the thousands who knew her, she immigrated from Nova Scotia to the tiny town of Lawrence (now Wahkon), Minnesota, as a young wife and mother, helped start the Presbyterian church in 1907, managed a farm and hotel, and served ALL who came looking for help and guidance, no matter their station in life.

In her 1951 high school graduation speech, my mother, Betty Berg Leonard, said that Aunt Jane was “the one who influenced me most….She was good, not a silent, gentle good, but a willful, wonderful good, fired with energy and purpose. She looked into your eyes when you talked with her. Everything she did was in service.”

I’m happy to say that many more Aunt Janes still exist all over rural Minnesota, they still influence me, and some will be recognized next week at the afore-mentioned  “Women’s Rural Breakfast Club”.  (Aunt Jane will definitely be there in spirit!).

According to 100 Rural Women organizer Teresa Kittridge, the meeting on May 19 will feature “knowledgeable, accomplished, positive thinking and inspiring female leaders based in the Central Region of Minnesota” (home of Aunt Jane, by the way!). They will share their work in economic development, the impacts of COVID 19, identify resources for rural women, with plenty of time for Q&A.

The presenters are Katie Heppner, Executive Director,  West Central Economic Development Alliance; Cheryal Lee Hills, Executive Director,  Region Five Development Commission; and

Sandy Voigt, Central Director Women’s Business Alliance Entrepreneur Fund.

Teresa organized the program because, “We believe it is more important than ever during COVID19 to lift up the work of rural women leaders, share resources with each other, network, and continue to develop as leaders in these unpredictable times we are living in.” Aunt Jane would heartily agree!

Here’s the Link for the Breakfast Club’s ZOOM Webinar:

Please contact Teresa with any questions – and see you there!


Special Edition Grants Directory (free; third edition) has been put together by the MN Council of Nonprofits.

 A one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide (PDF, 349 KB).

 A few of the resources that the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) team has put together:

RHS: Direct Loan Payment Deferrals for the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program Notice from the USDA Rural Housing Service of a temporary policy allowing borrowers with direct loans from the Community Facilities Program that are having temporary cash flow issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic to request payment deferrals for up to one year. The policy is effective May 12, 2020 and allows payment deferrals requests to be submitted until September 30, 2020.

–FEMA and The U.S. Department of Homeland Security are offering grants for fire departments, EMS organizations, and fire academies for equipment, training, personnel wellness programs, capital funding, and collaboration/regional communication efforts. This additional funding round focuses on Personal Protective Equipment and supplies needed to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Deadline:  5/15/2020.  Click here to review grant guidelines.

–The NDN COLLECTIVE’s COVID-19 Response Project provides rapid response funding to established, Indigenous-led, community-based organizations and tribes throughout the U.S. Grants are available to support the following services and relief efforts: medical supplies, food delivery, youth and elder care, educational access, shelter and housing, economic relief, social-emotional support, cultural and spirit-aligned support, and access to accurate information. Deadline:  applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis through 5/29/2020 Click here to review application guidelines.

–The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is offering funding to strengthen the tribal public health system to carry out surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications, and other preparedness and response activities in response to COVID-19. Deadline: 5/31/2020.  Review CDC guidelines by clicking here.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is providing assistance through the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund for hospitals and other healthcare providers to support expenses and lost revenue due to COVID-19 and to provide testing and treatment for uninsured Americans.  Deadline: applications accepted on an ongoing basis.  Click here to review application guidelines.

–The OMIDYAR NETWORK’s COVID-19 Economic Response Advocacy Fund will infuse 501(c)(4) funding into national, state, and local advocacy and organizing efforts aimed at passing economic stimulus to address the immediate toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on working people while reshaping our economic structure to ensure they are less vulnerable in the future. Omidyar Network will award $1.5 million to groups working to realign this nation’s economic policies and systems so that they work better for everyone. The majority of the grants from the Fund will be for $75,000 or less. Deadline: applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis throughout 2020Click here to learn more about this Fund.


Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program Funding for states, tribes, and local governments to plan, implement, or expand a criminal justice and mental health collaboration program. The program supports officer and public safety and violence reduction through social service and other partnerships that will enhance and increase law enforcement responses to people with mental illness and co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse. Application Deadline: May 18, 2020.

USDA is offering grants through The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program Formerly known as the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI) to support projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by providing incentives at the point of purchase. The program will test strategies that could contribute to our understanding of how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants.  Deadline:  5/18/2020.  Review program guidelines by clicking here.

Direct Services for Victims of Human Trafficking Grants to develop, expand, or strengthen victim service programs for victims of human trafficking. Rural communities are a priority. Application Deadline: May 18, 2020.

— U.S. Department of Justice is offering grants to develop, implement, and/or expand comprehensive programs in response to illicit opioids, stimulants, or other substances of abuse. The program provides resources to support state, local, Tribal, and territorial efforts to reduce violent crime and drug abuse and enhance public safety while supporting victims.  Deadline: 5/21/2020.  Click here for application guidelines.

USDA is offering grants through the Farmers Market Promotion Program which supports projects that develop, coordinate, and expand direct producer-to-consumer markets to help increase access to and availability of locally and regionally produced agricultural products. The focus is on developing, coordinating, expanding, and providing outreach, training, and technical assistance to domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, agritourism activities, online sales, or other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities. Deadline: 05/26/2020.  Click here to review program guidelines.

–The MPCA is requesting proposals for recycling market development projects. There is $400,000 in funding available for projects that will build lasting capacity to support recycling markets in Minnesota. The goal is to increase recycling feedstock value, increase end market capacity, divert recyclable materials from disposal, and create jobs in Minnesota. Deadline for submission is May 29, 2020. Visit the MPCA web site for more information including eligibility requirements for applicants and projects.

Household Water Well System Grants for qualified nonprofit organizations and tribes to create a revolving loan fund to increase access to clean, reliable water for households in eligible rural areas. Application Deadline: May 31, 2020.

Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program Grants to plan or implement food projects designed to meet the needs of low-income individuals and increase community self-reliance concerning food and nutrition. Application Deadline: Jun 3, 2020.

–USDA is offering National Institute of Food and Agriculture grants to plan or implement food projects to meet the needs of low-income individuals and increase community self-reliance concerning food and nutrition. Deadline: 6/3/2020.  Click here to review program guidelines.

Social and Economic Development Strategies Program (SEDS) Grants for tribal community-based organizations, tribes, and village governments for social and economic infrastructure development. The program is focused on community-driven projects designed to grow local economies, strengthen Native American families, including the preservation of Native American cultures, and decrease the high rate of current challenges caused by the lack of community-based businesses, and social and economic infrastructure in Native American communities. Application Deadline: Jun 15, 2020.

–The Brookdale Foundation is offering grants for community-based, social model day programs that provide dementia-specific group activities for participants and respite for family caregivers and care partners.  Deadline: 6/24/2020.  Click here to review application guidelines.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia Group Respite and Early Memory Loss Grants for community-based, social model day programs that provide dementia-specific group activities for participants and respite for family caregivers and care partners.
Application Deadline: Jun 24, 2020.

USDA is offering funding through the Strategic Economic and Community Development Program, which allows USDA to give priority for projects that support the implementation of regional economic development plans through several USDA Rural Development funding programs.  Deadline: 6/30/2020.  Click here to review program guidelines.

–USDA Rural Development is also offering grant support to help rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density. Deadline to apply: 7/13/2020.  Click here for an Application Guide.

–Minnesota Housing and its partners announce the launch of the 2020 Consolidated Request for Proposals (RFP). Our vision is that all Minnesotans live and thrive in a safe, stable home they can afford in a community of their choice. This annual Consolidated RFP process advances that vision by making funding available to help construct and preserve homes that are affordable in communities throughout Minnesota.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to every community in the state. Most of the Minnesota Housing staff team has converted to teleworking. Minnesota Housing remains operational across all divisions and continues to process construction draws, complete closings, and provide technical assistance. Please continue to reach out to us with proposals and questions.

Minnesota continues to need homes that are deeply affordable. To help keep housing production moving forward, the Consolidated RFP has launched. However, we recognize that many of our community partners are focused on addressing immediate needs brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of that, we have extended the application deadline to July 16, 2020. Selection announcements are anticipated to be made at the December 2020 Minnesota Housing Board meeting. For more information go to:

Foundation for Rural Service Community Grant Program Grants to support a variety of local efforts to build and sustain a high quality of life in rural communities across America. Focus areas include business development, community development, education, and telecommunications. Application Deadline: Sep 13, 2020.

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund: Auction 904 The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is designed to bring high speed fixed broadband service to rural homes and small businesses that lack access. The first phase of the FCC reverse auction will target over six million homes and businesses in census blocks that are entirely unserved by voice and broadband with download speeds of at least 25 Mbps. Application Deadline: Oct 22, 2020.

The HOME DEPOT Foundation’s Community Impact Grants Program provides support to nonprofit organizations and public service agencies in the U.S. that are using the power of volunteers to improve their communities. The program focuses on support for organizations that serve veterans in local communities, as well as organizations that serve diverse and underserved communities. Grants of up to $5,000 are made in the form of The Home Depot gift cards for the purchase of tools, materials, or services. Requests will be accepted on a rolling basis through 12/31/2020. Visit the Foundation’s website here to submit an online application.

–The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) provides zero-interest loans to small businesses for capital equipment purchases that meet or exceed environmental regulations, and costs related to the investigation and cleanup of contaminated sites. Some eligible projects include purchasing a solvent recycler, installing a new paint booth to switch to water-borne paint, and installing updated equipment that reduces emissions from refrigerants. Many small business loan projects lead to fewer regulatory requirements, lower waste disposal bills and less exposure to harmful chemicals for your employees, your customers and your neighbors.

Eligibility and conditions – Many business sectors are eligible. Projects that reduce regulatory obligations are highly encouraged. To quality, a borrower must be an existing small business corporation, sole proprietorship, partnership, or association with:

  • Fewer than 100 full-time employees
  • An after-tax profit of less than $500,000
  • A demonstrated ability to repay the loan

Loan terms and conditions:

  • Loan amount between $1,000 and $75,000
  • 0% interest rate
  • Repayment term up to seven years
  • Flexibility in the types of collateral accepted
  • Awarded throughout the year


–MCN’s first-ever fundraising, communications, and technology conference, ACTcon (May 5, St. Paul), has been moved to August 13 at the Saint Paul RiverCentre. All current registrants will receive further details as soon as they are finalized.

–Grounded Solutions Network National Conference will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 21-24, 2020.

–The Many Faces of Community Health Conference will be held October 22-23 in Brooklyn Center.


—-STEM Scholarship applications are open! Minnesota undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering, math and STEM-adjacent disciplines may be eligible to receive a $2,500 or $5,000 scholarship from the MHTA Foundation. Learn more and apply here. 

–MN Broadband Task Force looking for one more member

Nominate a nonprofit doing amazing work in advocacy.  Every day, nonprofits work to advocate for those who have no voice. MCN invites you to nominate your nonprofit (or one you know about) doing award-worthy work advocating for communities across Minnesota for a 2020 Nonprofit Mission Award. Types of advocacy work honored in this category could include: systems change, legislative action, civic engagement, grassroots advocacy, etc. Nominations close by Monday, May 18.

–It’s not too late to bring in bright, motivated talent – SciTech can help! Colleges across the state are scrambling to find internships for their students and have been reaching out to MHTA’s SciTech Internship program for help. If you are a small company with the bandwidth to hire a STEM intern (or five!), we’d love to help you connect to great talent. SciTech is free and provides a 50% wage match that reimburses companies for up to $2,500 per intern. More than 60 wage matches are still available for this year. Learn more and enroll today! 

Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service Monetary awards that honor health delivery organizations that have demonstrated exceptional commitment to community service. Application Deadline: May 22, 2020.

The American Indian College Fund Full Circle Scholarships for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Indigenous Canadian students seeking undergraduate and graduate degrees at Tribal colleges and universities and nonprofit, accredited schools in the United States. Application Deadline: May 31, 2020.

Agricultural Safety and Health: Core Course Registration Fee Waivers Awards course registration fee waivers to attend the Agricultural Safety and Health Core Course to be held in Iowa in June, 2020. Application Deadline: June 7, 2020.

–Current and Former Frontier Customers May be Eligible for Rebates or Bill Credits – July 20 Deadline!


Minnesota Primary Election and Updates:

* Minnesota’s primary election is Tuesday, August 11.

* Students can find information about their voter registration status and upcoming elections on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Elections & Voting website ( The Minnesota Secretary of State has also created a 2020 Elections and COVID-19 webpage ( .

* Minnesota’s online absentee ballot application opens on May 13 ( for both the August 11th primary and November 3rd election.

More Changes to the Census Operational Timeline. On April 13, 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau, in order to protect a fair, accurate, and safe count in these unprecedented times, announced additional adjustments to the census operational timeline. Self-response, the phase where households respond to the census online, by mail, or phone, is extended to October 31, 2020. Nonresponse follow up is now scheduled to start on August 11, 2020. This is the second adjustment made this year. View the Census Bureau website for more details on the changes.

The Census Bureau also posts frequently on their Facebook page ( . Check out the U.S. Census Bureau’s response rate mapping tool ( that displays self-response rates on a state-by-state basis. (Minnesota is in the lead, by the way…)

Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America View the diversity of challenges and opportunities across America’s counties. View indicators about people, jobs, income, veterans, and county types. The atlas has been updated to include American Community Survey 2014-18 (5-year average) county-level data, and 2018 poverty and income measures based on the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE).

Minnesota researcher studies how rural co-ops can build solar capacity. Read more… 


–The Census Bureau has launched an additional rapid-response survey to gauge COVID-19 impact on Americans. The survey started to be sent out via email and text on April 23. Survey questions cover topics such as whether a person is working, has lost income from their job, is experiencing mental health symptoms, is supporting a K-12 child who is learning at home, and whether that child has digital access (computer, internet, etc.).  Read an NPR article about the rapid-response survey here, and see the full 50-question survey by clicking here.

–RSM Corona Virus Resource Center is a resource center to help navigate the Federal Reserve’s new loan offerings for small- and medium-size businesses. Learn more 

— The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has created a dashboard which includes data sets from unemployment claims to TSA checkpoint counts and they are monitoring other data sources to inform policymakers and help us all better understand the pandemic’s impact.

COVID-19: Agriculture’s ominous feeling.  Respondents filled with uncertainty in the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’s first quarter ag credit conditions survey.

AgriSafe Learning: COVID-19 Rapid Response Online learning opportunities and resources for farmers, ranchers, farmworkers, and others involved in agriculture related to COVID-19.

UMASH – COVID-19 Resources Presents resources and information pertaining to COVID-19 for farmers and farmworkers in the Midwest. Features national and state-level information for Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota. Includes resources for Spanish speakers.

Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health – COVID-19 Resources Offers information and resources to help agricultural communities address the COVID-19 pandemic. Includes links to prevention and preparedness tips and videos, financial resources, information on staying connected, and general COVID-19 facts and updates.

–The Blandin Foundation will be hosting weekly online roundtables for community leaders to learn, listen or share stories about community broadband.

–Meetings in the Time of Coronavirus: Tips and Tricks of online meetings webinar archive

University of Minnesota Tourism Center Offering Free Webinar Series The University of Minnesota Tourism Center is offering a free series of four 30-minute webinars on COVID-19 and the tourism industry.

U.S. Travel Presents Industrywide Guidelines to Reopen Travel Together as a travel industry, and with counsel from medical advisors, U.S. Travel Association has put together a “Travel in the New Normal” document in collaboration with the travel industry and signed by vertical trade associations representing thousands of organizations that comprise the entire travel industry.

COVID-19 Resources Are Available –Information from the State of MN:

Mental Health: If you’re worried about a loved one, or if you want someone to talk to, know you can reach out. We have a website with mental health resources. You’re not alone in this challenge.

Child Care: We understand that the COVID-19 has disrupted child care plans for many families. The child care landscape has been greatly impacted by this pandemic. Find resources and information for child care providers and families here.

Housing: We created this webpage to provide a centralized location for all Minnesota Housing updates and information related to COVID-19.

Emergency food support: Due to COVID-19 pandemic, many Minnesota families face difficult times. It may be hard to pay bills and find food to stay healthy. If you or someone you know has been laid off from work or seen work hours cut, help may be available. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can help you buy food while budgets are tight.

Unemployment Support: Minnesota is one of the first states in the nation to implement both the $600 per week additional compensation and the 13-week extension of benefits available under the CARES Act. Find these and answers to other unemployment questions here.

You can find links to these resources and additional help for employers and employees, volunteer opportunities, and information about donating personal protective equipment our COVID-19 website.

Centralize information and links to for artists and creative workers resources on Springboard for the Arts’ Coronavirus Resource Page to help you find information that can support your business or your artistic practice, including grant programs and emergency relief for artists and creative workers.

— Artists and Creative Workers: Please take Americans for the Art’s COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers so we can ensure that our nation’s political leaders understand the impact this crisis is having on artists.

–Resources to help arts organizations weather this storm. For now, they are listed at MCA’s Coronavirus Resource page and Springboard’s page for organizations.

Art and Cultural Organizations: Please take the Americans for the Arts Economic Impact of COVID-19 On Arts and Cultural Organizations survey to ensure that our nation’s political leaders understand the impact this crisis is having on our sector.

What do MN arts groups need to survive coronavirus? Broadband makes the shortlist

Setting up an arts business online

Nonprofit Quarterly published an article, “It’s Different This Time: Handling Nonprofit Staff Cuts Under COVID-19.”  This article examines various considerations that nonprofit organizations must weigh when making staff reduction decisions.  Click here to read the article.

COVID-19: What Nonprofits Need to Know. MN Council of Nonprofits continues to provide updates as well as resources that may help you navigate the issues you and your nonprofit may currently be facing. New resources available at COVID-19 resource page

The Communities Strategies Group of The Aspen Institute has published “Redesign Required: Principles for Federal Rural Policy in the COVID-19 Era.”  This report is the first in a three-part blog series on principles, ideas, and implementation considerations essential to ensuring that development investments that are part of COVID-19 relief and recovery set the stage for thriving rural communities and a more distributed, inclusive economy.  Get the full report by clicking here.

EDITORS’ NOTE: As always — please send us items to post, comments, ideas, etc. You can send them to Jane Leonard at And thanks for getting to the end of this month’s issue!