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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Dear Neighbors,

Late Monday evening, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved legislation that provides grants to struggling businesses and includes a 13-week extension on unemployment insurance for individuals that have been laid off.

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 (DOR) to restaurants, bars, gyms, bowling alleys, and other businesses that have seen losses of more than 30% compared to last year.
  • The second category is approximately $14 million administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for movie theaters and large convention centers, and
  • The third 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 who receive grants from the DOR are not precluded from receiving county-based grants. 

I did not support the bill because it is not the right way to aid Minnesota businesses and workers.

Runaway government spending and borrowing will significantly hinder our state’s budget in the years to come. And while the relief will help some, ultimately the best way we can help businesses is to let them fully open so they can safely serve their customers. That is why I will continue pushing to end Governor Walz’s emergency powers and restore the legislature’s constitutionally designated role as a coequal branch of government.

We started this year with a $1.7 billion balance in our Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund – by the end of July, it was bankrupt, and we started borrowing. There’s a possibility that this debt may be forgiven by the federal government, but there is no guarantee. I could not in good conscience support a bill that adds $520 million more to our debt. This bill now brings our total debt to the federal government to $1.3 billion. 

I am also concerned about the unintentional consequences of significantly extending unemployment. I’ve heard from dozens of business owners in the area that have had problems hiring employees during the pandemic as they try to staff up. Understandably, some folks may choose to stay unemployed despite being offered their job back because unemployment benefits have been so generous. Ultimately, unemployment insurance is not supposed to pay out if an employee is offered their job back or another same or similar job, but they have not been stopping payments for this reason.

Despite my vote against this bill, I nevertheless hope that the aid will assist small businesses in our community. We know businesses don't want a handout, they want to be able to safely reopen their doors and serve their customers. I will continue to work to help businesses safely reopen instead of continuing to keep them closed. The Governor's orders are not backed up by data, nor has he shared the data he used to require businesses to shut down. He needs to allow as many businesses as possible to reopen with safety measures in place to protect employees and customers. 

Please be sure to reach out to me if you have any questions. I will do my best to keep you updated as we prepare for the 2021 legislative session, set to begin in early January. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4229 and rep.glenn.gruenhagen@house.mn

Have a great day,

Glenn

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