State accepting applications for small business relief grants June 23-July 2

This week, the Legislature approved and Governor Walz signed a $60.3 million appropriation for grants for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with $31.25 million dedicated to small businesses in Greater Minnesota. Today, DEED announced that the application period will open on June 23 and close at 5:00pm on Thursday, July 2 in accordance with the 10-day application period contained in the bill.

This is a bill that the Greater Minnesota Partnership worked closely on in the final weeks of the regular session and leading up to the special session, and we were pleased to see that the Legislature was able to pass it in the first hours of the special session last week. These funds are critically important to our communities, our entrepreneurs, and our families, and will help our businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue reading

Bonding efforts fail to break logjam

Passing a robust bonding bill has been the GMNP’s top goal since before the pandemic and we had high hopes that the Legislature would follow through with their promises to get one done. As things stand today, the chances of a bonding bill passing during the special session are slim.

During a press conference on Thursday morning, House Majority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) stated that the House and Senate are close to an agreement on a bill. During his own press conference a few hours later, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) stated that legislative leaders have agreed on $1.35 billion as the size of the bill. Continue reading

New small-business relief grant program signed into law

One of the first things to happen during the special session was the passage by the House and concurrence by the Senate of a COVID-19 small business relief grant program. Gov. Walz signed the bill into law Tuesday.

The bill creates a $62.5 million grant program aimed at providing relief to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on businesses ordered to halt operations by Gov. Walz’s executive orders. Of the grant total, $31.25 million will go to businesses in Greater Minnesota. The Greater Minnesota grants will be awarded to businesses via a partnership between the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the six Initiative Foundations, with grantees receiving up to $10,000.

To be eligible for a grant, a business must be in Minnesota, owned by a permanent resident, and have a permanent physical location. Businesses must be in good standing with the state as of March 1, employ 50 or fewer full-time workers, and be able to demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. Priority will be given to businesses that were restricted from operating at more than 50% capacity by executive order on May 18. Continue reading

House, Senate reach tentative agreement on small business grants

The Legislature is poised to pass a significant bill out of the gate during the special session. Based on information that came out of the Senate Jobs and Economic Development Committee hearing Thursday, the two chambers have reached an agreement on approving $62.5 million in small business emergency grants. These grants would make available up to $10,000 per qualifying employer to support payroll expenses, pay rent/mortgage, and pay bills incurred since March 1.

Of the $62.5 million, $31.25 million will be distributed to employers in Greater Minnesota via the six Initiative Foundations for their respective regions. It is unknown at this time if the dollars will be allocated equally among the six regions or if it will be distributed to each region based on population.

Applications for final round of emergency child care grants due June 15

June 15 is the deadline for the state’s third and final round of Peacetime Emergency Childcare Grants. This program was launched as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Minnesota and Gov. Walz issued executive orders closing portions of the state’s economy, including schools. The grants were targeted both at propping up the child care industry, which was already in crisis mode before the pandemic, and to increase child care opportunities for public safety and health care workers on the front line of addressing the pandemic.

In the first two rounds, the state distributed $10 million per round. For the June 15 round, it will allocate the final $19.8 million. In addition to traditional in-home child care and centers that were eligible for the first two rounds, the final round will also award funds to nonprofit organizations that provide summer care to older, school-age children. Continue reading

State announces next steps in reopening

Governor Walz and DEED Commissioner Steve Grove shared the next phase of reopening Minnesota’s economy beginning on Wednesday, June 10. Below is a description of the new guidelines.

General Meeting Limits: Groups of up to 25 people can gather outdoors and up to 10 can gather indoors. A maximum of 250 people total can gather indoors or outdoors with social distancing.

Restaurants and Bars: Restaurants and bars can be open at 50% capacity indoors and outdoors. A maximum of 250 people can gather in both indoor and outdoor restaurant spaces. Reservations remain required. Workers are required to wear masks and guests are strongly encouraged to wear them.

Personal Care Services: Salons, spas, hair care, etc. can by open at 50% capacity. Both worker and patron must wear masks. Reservations are required. Continue reading

Relief for small businesses shaping up to be part of special session

In the final days of the 2020 regular legislative session, the House and Senate were both working on proposals to make funds available for small businesses impacted by the economic shutdown that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, as the session came into its final hours, the two chambers’ bill authors and caucus leaders, along with the Walz administration, were not able to come to an agreement on the size and parameters of the project.

Since session ended, the House and Senate have continued to work on coming to some consensus on how best to support small employers across the state. On Wednesday, we got our first glimpse of what the emerging agreement, if there is one to be had, might look like. In a hearing before the House Jobs and Economic Development Committee, Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids) presented a proposal to create a $60 million small business grant program. The proposal would allocate $30 million to the six Initiative Foundations in Greater Minnesota and $30 million to nonprofits serving the Twin Cities market. Continue reading

Governor launches ‘Phase 2’ reopening plan

On May 20, Gov. Walz held a press conference to introduce further guidelines for service businesses to re-open on June 1 and provided a look into the future of re-openings. Below is a description of some of the elements of upcoming phases.

Phase 2 – June 1 

  • Restaurants and bars: Outdoor dining only, no more than 50 total people, maximum parties of 4 or 6 if you are a family, reservations required, and all workers must wear masks, and customers are encouraged to as well. Cities encouraged to “get creative” on outdoor spaces for restaurants.
  • Hair salons, nail salons and tattoo parlors: Open at 25% of fire code capacity, masks are required for patrons and workers, by-appointment only, no walk-ins.
  • Campgrounds and charter boats: Open, must be socially distant, DNR website has more information and guidelines (see next article for more information)
  • Outdoor sports practice and day camps: Can occur if under 10 people, overnight camps not yet allowed
  • If you can telework, you must telework.

Continue reading

Bonding bill fails to make it past the finish line

One of the top priorities for the GMNP this legislative session was the passage of a robust bonding bill, but the House and Senate failed to come together on an agreement before the Legislature adjourned.

A bonding bill requires a three-fifths majority to pass, which this session meant that some members of the DFL minority in the Senate and the GOP minority in the House needed to vote in favor of the bill for it pass.

The House brought a nearly $2 billion bonding bill, HF 2529, to the floor on Saturday. All the projects included in the bill can be seen in this spreadsheet. The House proposal garnered only 75 votes (it needed 81 to pass), all from DFL legislators, and therefore failed. Before the vote was taken on the bill, Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) announced that his caucus could not support a bill of this size and that he was confident a bill would get done during a June special session. Continue reading

Urge the Senate to support funding for child care facilities!

One of the GMNP’s top priorities is solving the child care shortage in Greater Minnesota communities. This legislative session, we are working to create a new program, funded through the bonding bill, that would provide capital for local governments to build, purchase, or rehab buildings that the city or county would own but could rent to child care providers. The program would fund up to 50% of the capital costs of the program, with a maximum of $500,000. The local community would be responsible for the remaining 50 percent, either through a city or county contribution or funding from the private sector.

This week, the House DFL announced their bonding proposal, and it includes $5 million for this program.

We have received word that Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester), chair of the Senate Capital Investment Committee, is lukewarm to this proposal. In a recent email to one of our members, he states, “I have not heard of any cities yet that want to get into this financially and operationally.” Continue reading