This week the House approved a $242.3 million COVID-19 relief package designed to help small businesses and workers impacted by Gov. Tim Walz’s latest restrictions on businesses.
The governor signed the bill the same day he extended many of the current restrictions into the new year. Notably, bars and restaurants remain prohibited from indoor dining service until at least Jan. 10.
As for the relief package, approximately $216 million will go out as direct aid and $25 million will support the state unemployment insurance fund. Earlier this morning Congressman Stauber updated area legislators via conference call. He continues to push hard to get the federal aid package out the door.
Our state relief package will help however I believe it’s time to moderate the current business crippling restrictions. We should not be using the attorney general’s office as a sledgehammer to threaten business owners, rather we must stay laser-focused on protecting those most at risk and getting our children back in school.
The relief package includes direct grants to businesses, license and other fee relief, and a 13-week unemployment extension 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.
The federal school hot lunch program automatically became free when the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, as a result, many parents didn’t complete the enrollment process for that 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 several categories. The first is $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. $14 million will be go 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 go directly to businesses impacted by the recent closures that did not qualify for the other grant categories. Preliminary estimates for counties in District 10B were just over $313,000 for Aitkin and about $1.28 million for Crow Wing County.
Please take all the necessary measures to protect yourself and those at risk.