St. Paul, MN - Yesterday, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed new COVID-19 assistance legislation for Minnesota workers and businesses. The legislation includes a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for workers and assistance for businesses most impacted by the pandemic. Rep. Shelly Christensen (DFL - Stillwater) voted in favor of the legislation.
“The measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota are saving lives, but it’s incredibly important that we balance those measures with assistance for our working families and small businesses” said Rep. Christensen. “The lifeline we passed for Minnesota isn’t a fix-all solution, and more assistance from the federal government is required, but our communities couldn’t afford to wait any longer. Even with light at the end of the tunnel, we need to continue to lift up our working families and small businesses as we weather this pandemic.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of workers in Minnesota and millions across the country exhausted their regular unemployment benefits in the summer and fall and remain unable to find a job. The federal CARES Act provides these workers with another 13 weeks of benefits, but that extension will expire on December 26. This bill is designed to fill this gap if federal leadership is unable to reach an agreement on a federal extension. Under this bill, workers could collect up to 13 weeks in additional unemployment insurance if they exhaust all their unemployment any time between December 19, 2020 and April 10, 2021.
In addition to the 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for more than 100,000 Minnesotans, the new assistance package directs the Department of Revenue to send checks directly to restaurants, bars, and other businesses impacted by the latest public health guidelines, with no need for businesses to fill out an application. The Department of Revenue estimates that 5,800 small businesses will receive $82-88 million beginning before the end of the year. Another $114.5 million will be distributed to counties to provide grants to impacted businesses, and movie theaters and convention centers will receive $14 million. Through this legislation, Washington County will receive $5.18 million.
The assistance package also contains provisions that would waive and delay certain fees for the hospitality industry. Among the fees waived include 2 a.m. liquor licenses for bars, caterers that serve alcohol, wastewater permitting fees for small breweries, and certain late payment penalties from the Dept. of Agriculture for food manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. Another provision would give an extension to school districts during the current pandemic to collect forms from families eligible for free and reduced lunch. The legislation extends the current deadline of December 15 to January 4, 2021.