I continue to be impressed by our faith communities and how they are creatively working to encourage people by the use of technology and social media to share daily or weekly words of encouragement as we work to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. These are challenging times and their support is much appreciated.
As for legislative news, it is far too early to know the full extent of damage our small businesses will suffer due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but many of our local shops can’t wait for help. The good news is Minnesota is among states where the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Disaster Loan Assistance Program’s low-interest loans are available to cover small-business operating expenses after a disaster declaration was issued.
The SBA Disaster Loan Assistance Program is one option to investigate as a more immediate solution for weathering this economic storm as we await further action at the state and federal levels. I encourage our entrepreneurs to give this program a look to see if it’s right for them.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) indicates this program can provide low-interest loans of up to $2 million to small businesses and private non-profits. These loans can go toward working capital to meet needs including payroll, accounts payable, and fixed debt payments that can’t be paid due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Long-term repayment options of up to a maximum of 30 years are available at 3.75% interest, and at 2.75% interest for non-profits. Businesses can defer payments for the first four months and it is recommended owners apply online at sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance.
Loans can be directly dispersed within three weeks. Businesses will need to gather their tax statements from last year, in addition to providing financial information to show current and expected business losses.
Questions can be directed to the SBA Hotline at 1-800-659-2955. More information from Minnesota’s DEED can be found at https://mn.gov/deed/.
On a related note, the governor has signed an executive order aimed at bridging the gap until SBA Disaster Loans and other federal assistance can be disbursed. At a total of $30 million, loans will be between $2,500 to $35,000, 50-percent forgivable, at 0-percent interest. Loans will begin going out as soon as this week. It also allows cities and counties with revolving loan funds with the state to issue loans ($28 million total available, for a total of $58 million).
Protective equipment drive
Hospitals across the nation and here in Minnesota are running out of important personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gowns, that help keep them safe while diagnosing and treating patients.
Due to this nationwide shortage, the Minnesota Nurses Association, local hospitals, and others are calling for donations of factory-made N95 ear loop masks or for volunteers to create CDC-approved, reusable face masks. Instructions on how to make hand sewn masks can be found on their website.
Masks can be safely donated from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. through April 5 and can be dropped off at the following locations:
Please be sure to remain in your car when you arrive to donate. A staff member will come to you to accept your donation.
This is a great way to support our healthcare professionals as they treat and diagnose Minnesotans. Please be sure to thank a doctor or nurse today!
Red Cross needs your help
The Red Cross faces a severe shortage because nearly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives have been canceled in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Blood drives account for more than 80 percent of blood that the Red Cross collects, so if you are healthy and eligible to donate, please visit RedCrossBlood.org, or use the Red Cross Blood Donor app to schedule an appointment.
Look for more news as things develop. The governor has issued a steady stream of executive orders but, at least as of now, no shelter-in-place order has been called. The Legislature could meet in St. Paul as soon as later this week to pass bills related to COVID-19, so stay tuned for more on that.