The two main headlines from the Capitol this week include the Legislature’s passage of a business relief package and the governor announcing he will extend shutdowns and restrictions of Minnesota businesses into the new year, with some moderate easing.
As for the governor’s move, it came just two days before executive orders he issued in November were set to expire. There are some slight improvements in what the governor is now ordering but, until we take real steps toward safely re-opening our state, it’s not enough.
For example, when infection rates for restaurants are less than 1 percent as the governor’s own data shows, it seems logical for them to operate at a moderate capacity instead of the governor continuing to ban dine-in service at least until Jan. 10. He said outdoor dining is now allowed. That might be a novel idea, but it’s not practical in most cases during a Minnesota winter and data does not appear to support the governor’s decision.
Businesses have gone to great lengths to implement safety measures to keep workers and customers safe. Minnesota is experiencing a downward trend in COVID-19 numbers and vaccines are being administered. We can do more to safely re-open our state and, again, the governor’s updated orders do not go far enough to that end.
The relief approved by the Legislature on Monday is a $216 million package designed to help small businesses and workers impacted by the governor’s restrictions. It includes direct grants to businesses, license and other fee relief, and a 13-week extension of unemployment insurance for workers.
This isn’t a perfect bill, but it offers some critical help where it’s needed. 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.
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. Preliminary estimates for counties in District 18A were $460,000 for Meeker, $710,000 for McLeod and $2.7 million for Wright.
Visit the DOR website for more information on the business relief payments.
The 2021 session begins in early January, so look for more news on these subjects and many more as things get underway.