Minnesota small businesses impacted by the current partial shutdown could be receiving some relief with new legislation that Gov. Tim Walz says will be released as soon as Tuesday.
"The package that we're going to be putting out tomorrow – that we prepared along with cooperation from the Legislature – I am prepared to call them back into special session and pass this package immediately," said Walz during a Monday press conference.
Among the items in the legislation, according to Walz:
- Sales tax forgivenesses for businesses that sell food and beverages.
- Waive state regulatory fees.
- Exploring direct relief for workers.
- One time food grants for businesses to provide food to healthcare workers, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.
- State tax credit for food donations in the hospitality industry.
- Elimination of the COVID-19 Fund expiration date.
"There's no deal done yet," said Walz. "It appears to be very bipartisan. The desire to get help to small businesses is very strong."
He reiterated that point multiple times during his press conference: "I'm getting every indication that there's a desire to get something done. I'm trying to leave that space for the legislature to partner in this," said Walz.
Despite these comments, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-E. Gull Lake) say they have not received word from the governor as to his proposals.
“House Republicans have been working since last week on solutions to help businesses impacted by the governor’s latest shutdown," Daudt said. "We hope the governor will work with the legislature, but have yet to hear from him on what he is proposing for a potential special session.”
Details beyond what Walz mentioned above have not been released. It's unclear what processes business owners will have to follow in order to be eligible for the relief, nor is it clear what exactly "exploring direct relief for workers" means.
There has yet to be a second federal stimulus package to help businesses and workers who are suffering due to mandatory closures and subsequent layoffs. During the spring and summer, laid-off workers were eligible for an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits and a one-off $1,200 payment, but that stimulus expired and no further relief has been provided.
Walz said the state would do what it can within its limited means (as state budgets have been hit hard by the pandemic) to help businesses, but that the best hope of significant help lies with Congress passing a stimulus bill.
The current four-week partial shutdown is set to expire Dec. 18, though a hard end to the executive order isn't guaranteed and will be dependent on numerous data points around the spread of COVID-19 and hospital capacity.
The latest executive order bans dine-in service at bars and restaurants, wedding receptions, social gatherings with anyone not in your immediate household, and also places restrictions on other forms of entertainment.