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COVID-19: Hennepin County Board approves $8M to help bars, restaurants

The approval comes a day before Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce additional restrictions for restaurants.

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved $8 million to help hundreds of bars and restaurants struggling due to COVID-19 business restrictions.

The board approved this measure to help foodservice businesses a week after Gov. Tim Walz ordered that bars and restaurants have to close by 10 p.m. to in-person dining. On Wednesday, the governor is expected to announce additional restrictions, including closing bars and restaurants to in-person service for the next four weeks. 

The $8 million is expected to help between 600 and 800 businesses and could help secure or return jobs for thousands of workers, the Star Tribune reports

Grants up to $15,000 will be available to locally owned and operated bars, restaurants, and foodservice establishments in the county that have 100 or fewer employees and have $6 million or less in annual revenue, the county says

The county intends to open the grant application process next week, the Star Tribune says. 

Money for these grants is coming from the federal CARES Act. Earlier this year, the county received $220 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds that must be spent by the end of the year. 

Since June, the county has given out more than $22 million to small businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic, the county says, with many grants being given to restaurants. 

The restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent business restrictions. Since March, dozens have closed for good, while others have closed temporarily or have altered their offerings due to fewer in-person diners.

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As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations skyrocket, Gov. Walz has pointed to bars and restaurants as sources for COVID-19 spread. As of Nov. 5, 117 restaurants and bars in the state have been linked to COVID-19 outbreaks, with 2,406 COVID-19 positive cases having reported visiting one of the 117 establishments, the state said.

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association noted earlier this month that bars and restaurants are associated with 2% of COVID-19 cases in the state. 

With additional restrictions on bars and restaurants expected this week, more businesses could be forced to close their doors for good, industry leaders have warned.

Also on Tuesday, the board allocated $1 million more in CARES Act funding to support food security for residents and allocated more than $2 million to expand COVID-19 testing at long-term care facilities, large residential settings, and community centers in areas that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. 

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