ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House on Monday approved a $216 million business relief package designed to help small businesses and workers impacted by Gov. Tim Walz’s latest restrictions on businesses.
The move comes as business owners wait for the governor to announce whether he will extend current restrictions past their scheduled expiration this Friday. Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, said the relief package will help, but the best remedy would be allowing Minnesota businesses to safely re-open their doors.
“This isn’t a perfect bill but it offers some critical help where it’s needed,” Urdahl said. “Many of our small businesses are threatened, some holding on by a thread. It’s not because of mismanagement, not because of anything they’ve done, but because the state of Minnesota, through the governor’s executive orders, has closed them completely or drastically curtailed their business.
“We must offer them relief, but the real fix is to let them completely re-open. Even the 50-percent capacity was workable compared with what restaurants have to endure today. The level of contagion from restaurants is slight. We must be fair; to inhibit our small businesses while leaving the big-box stores virtually untouched makes no sense and the governor should ease his restrictions.”
The business relief package includes direct grants to businesses, license and other fee relief, and a 13-week extension of unemployment insurance for workers.
The grants are broken into three categories aimed at prioritizing speed. The first category will be $88 million in grants administered automatically by the Department of Revenue to restaurants, bars, gyms, bowling alleys, and other businesses who have seen losses of more than 30 percent compared with last year.
The second category is approximately $14 million administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for movie theaters and large convention centers, and the third pot is $112 million in grants that will be administered at the county level.
The county-based grants are intended to help additional businesses impacted by the recent closures that do not qualify for the first two grant categories, however businesses which receive grants from the DOR are not precluded from receiving county-based grants.
Urdahl said he is waiting for confirmation of exact dollar amounts for grants plus administrative fees appropriated to counties. He indicated preliminary estimates for counties in District 18A were $460,000 for Meeker, $710,000 for McLeod and $2.7 million for Wright.
The bill passed the House by a 117-13 vote. With Senate approval secured 62-4 earlier Monday, it now is in the hands of the governor for enactment.