St. Paul, Minnesota — Today, the Minnesota House Select Committee on Minnesota’s Pandemic Response and Rebuilding held a hearing on COVID-19’s impact on Minnesota workers and businesses.
“First, our state and the nation were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of that, businesses have experienced significant property damage and loss following the brutal murder of George Floyd. These events have caused massive economic hardships for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Legislators worked with the Governor's office and DEED to provide some COVID-19 assistance in March, but much more is needed. Minnesotans are desperate for help. The Legislature has an opportunity to partner with Governor Walz to rapidly deliver results in the special session. While we will need more time to assess the damage in the Twin Cities and to craft a fair, comprehensive relief package, we can and should move on COVID-related relief right away.”
Steve Grove, Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), presented to committee members on the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on workers and businesses in Minnesota, and steps the federal and state government have taken to date to help workers and businesses, as well as next steps under consideration.
DEED managed a Minnesota Small Business Emergency Loan Program established by executive order and funded through the Legislature. The original $30 million in funding is nearly exhausted. The House passed legislation appropriating additional funding during the regular session.
“We have to continue our efforts to build a better future for all Minnesotans — during this pandemic and beyond,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “Minnesota has the resources we need to help Minnesotans respond to this crisis, and that investment is a choice we should make. Minnesotans are looking to us for help in this crisis and we need to deliver.”
“We are challenged to rebuild in the aftermath of both COVID-19 and the unrest,” said Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL - Minneapolis). “There is no better investment than to stabilize and improve our neighborhoods and our local businesses – they are the heart of our community. Even in difficult times, we must think about the future of the place we call home and get to work today.”
“During the current pandemic, Iron Range businesses and workers have had to make monumental sacrifices to protect our public health. They deserve a pathway to get back to normal as soon as possible,” said Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL – Aurora). “The rebuilding will take time, and we need to commit to delivering more resources for the businesses most affected to help them get through this unprecedented time. Thanks to Speaker Hortman for creating this Select Committee so all voices can be heard. I’m grateful the collective voice of the Iron Range could be at the table today as we explore solutions to give small businesses the opportunity to once again thrive, while also keeping our communities safe.”
In partnership with workers, business owners, legislators, and stakeholders, DEED has crafted guidelines to ensure workers can return to their jobs and businesses can open safely. Recent executive orders from Governor Walz also ensure workers can raise concerns regarding the safety of their work environments without fear of discrimination or retaliation and protects workers from loss of income if they refuse to work under unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
In April, the Legislature passed legislation delivering workers’ compensation benefits to health care and public safety workers who contract COVID-19 in the line of duty. In particular, the legislation provides a presumption that if these workers contract COVID, they did so during the course of their employment and are covered by workers’ compensation.
Minnesota was among the first states to issue the $600 in additional unemployment insurance and issue Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments to people who are self-employed, independent contractors, and other eligible recipients who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits under the federal CARES Act.
The committee also heard from Pat and Alissa Horan, owners of the Sawmill Saloon and Restaurant in Virginia, and Steve Peterson, small business owner and economic program specialist for the City of Virginia.