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Gov. Walz convenes special session, wants relief for small businesses

The Legislature will return on Monday.

Gov. Tim Walz has convened the state's 7th legislative session of the year, with the intention that lawmakers work out a deal to provide financial aid to COVID-hit businesses, workers and families.

When he announced his latest four-week shutdown of bars, restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues last month amid surging virus cases, Walz called on lawmakers to come up with a relief package to help those worst-hit by the closures.

The prospect of a relief package have been aided by the recent announcement that Minnesota is now showing a state budget surplus for 2020-21, raising hopes that the money can be found to provide support to struggling employers and employees.

Walz also intends to extended his COVID-19 peacetime emergency, conferring emergency powers to his office. This had been opposed by Republican lawmakers before the election, but there was no vote taken to overturn it at the last special session, which happened in the days after the election.

“Minnesota’s small businesses and workers are bearing a large burden of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect their entire community amid restrictions that are saving lives,” said Walz.

"I call upon our state legislature to come together and ensure our businesses stay afloat, our workers are supported, and our families can put food on the table."

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Both Walz and House Republicans have revealed plans for how they wish to help businesses and workers, with Walz wanting to extend unemployment benefits for a further 13 weeks, as well as issuing a one-off $500 payment to "struggling families."

He's also proposed a one-time grant to restaurants to provide food for healthcare workers, homeless shelters, and long-term care facilities.

House Republicans meanwhile have called for a three-month sales tax holiday for bars and restaurants that have had to shutter until Dec. 18.

While Walz and lawmakers have been working on state aid, the governor has said that more meaningful support needs to be provided at the federal level.

In recent weeks he had written to President Donald Trump and leaders on both sides of the aisle in Congress asking them to pass a relief bill.

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