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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Legislative update

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Dear Neighbor,

The Legislature on Monday approved a $216 million business relief package designed to help small businesses and workers impacted by Gov. Tim Walz’s restrictions on businesses. 

The governor could have met this relief by lifting restrictions he has unilaterally imposed. Instead, he turned around and announced Wednesday he is going to keep many of those businesses closed by extending at least some of his shutdown orders in place that were set to expire Friday. 

For example, no indoor dining at bars and restaurants is allowed until at least Jan. 10. The governor’s own figures show a minute number of COVID-19 cases, less than 1 percent, are linked to bars and restaurants, yet he keeps them on lockdown and suggests outdoor dining during a Minnesota winter is viable? It’s outrageous, arbitrary and inconsistent with the data. 

Bad things happen when one person makes all the state’s decisions and we’ve been living under this for nine months and counting. Someone needs to grab the wheel from the governor before he completely runs our state into the ditch, if we’re not already there.  

The relief package approved on Monday may help some businesses, but the best way to fix the pain is to let them open their doors so they can earn a living, their employees can start making a paycheck and we can start getting back to living life and returning to some sort of normalcy. 

Business owners I talk to don't want handouts, they just want to work. The governor’s orders are not backed up by data and instead of extending his dictatorial shutdowns, he should allow as many businesses as possible to reopen with safety measures in place to protect employees and customers.  

Aside from the heavy-handed restrictions the governor has placed on our business community, his lack of communication with the business community has added insult to the injuries he’s inflicted. His shutdown of some businesses was set to expire this Friday, yet he only gave 48 hours’ notice whether he was going to unilaterally keep them closed or allow them to open their doors. 

Through it all, on Monday, House Republicans voted for the eighth time to end the governor’s emergency powers. This is the longest peacetime emergency in state history, and he continues to refuse to work with the legislature. At the same time, the House majority remains content to let one person make the state’s decisions instead of participating in the process and representing their constituents. So they blocked our effort to bring up the governor's emergency powers for a vote.

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 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.

Additional details are available at the DOR website. Also, the DOR plans to conduct outreach with eligible businesses through their e-Services account. Businesses can contact DOR through their e-Services account with any questions they may have.

Sincerely,

Shane

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