Two rather important notes to pass along from the Capitol this week include the Legislature’s approval of a relief package for businesses on Monday and the governor announcing on Wednesday he will extend shutdowns and restrictions on Minnesota businesses into the new year, with some moderate easing.
As for the governor’s announcement, I just can’t mince words on this: It is a major mistake to extend restrictions that already have ravaged businesses throughout our state. The Legislature approved a package of relief for businesses just a few days ago, but the governor’s lack of movement on re-opening our state just ripped a hole in that life raft.
So many businesses have been hanging on by a thread, just praying the governor this week would ease restrictions he placed upon them, yet he came nowhere near providing them with any real opportunity. He gave our bars and restaurants the ability to provide limited service outdoors … in the dead of Minnesota winter. This isn’t a real solution, and the day can’t come soon enough when we have more than one person making decisions that impact every citizen of this state.
We can take COVID-19 seriously and still do more to re-open our state. It doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition. People need to be able to make a living and children need to get back to school. The constant changes negatively impacting education, staff and our families must end.
The governor’s move came just two days after a special session took place in which the Legislature approved a $216 million business relief package designed to help small businesses and workers impacted by the governor’s restrictions on businesses.
This is relief to businesses that were, once again, forced to shut down on very short notice from the governor and without any assistance plan offered by him. We realize this relief is no cure-all for businesses, but I hope it will bide some time until the federal government approves additional relief.
In the meantime, the best thing we can do to mitigate the pain our business owners are feeling is to help them safely re-open their doors so people can resume making a living. Unfortunately, the governor did not seize the chance to do so on Wednesday.
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 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 showed Stearns receiving a little more than $3 million.
Visit the DOR website for more information on the business relief payments.
Until next time, your feedback always is welcome.