$242 million package to help survive Gov. Walz's latest shutdown
ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House on Monday approved a $242.3 million business relief package designed to help small businesses and workers impacted by Gov. Tim Walz’s latest restrictions on businesses.
With Senate approval secured earlier Monday, the bill went directly to the governor for signature. The move comes as business owners across Minnesota wait for the governor to announce whether he will extend current restrictions beyond their expiration this Friday. About $216 million will go out as direct aid and $25 million will used to support the state unemployment insurance fund, while the entire country awaits federal action in that area.
“The bill will help, however I continue to believe it’s time for the governor to back off on the current business crippling restrictions,” Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin said. “Rather than use the attorney general’s office and other state agencies as a sledge hammer to threaten business owners, we must stay laser-focused on protecting those most at risk and getting our children back in school.”
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 bill also extends the deadline to January 4, 2021 for school districts and charter schools to report the number of students enrolled in the free or reduced hot-lunch program.
“Because of federal action the school hot lunch program automatically became free for most students,” Lueck said. “Unfortunately, as a result, many parents did not complete the enrollment process for the program. Future program aid considers previous year certified enrollments, if that number is not accurate, many schools could see a significant reduction in next year’s aid in this area.”
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 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.
Lueck indicated he is waiting for confirmation of exact dollar amounts to individual county grants plus administrative fees that will be appropriated to counties throughout the state. Preliminary estimates for counties in District 10B were just over $313,000 for Aitkin and about $1.28 million for Crow Wing.