COVID-19 Resources for Retailers

A strong retail communuity is important during all seasons, but especially in times of uncertainty such as the conditions surrounding COVID-19. Below are resources for retailers.

(Updated April 2, 2020, 4:00 p.m.)


April 2: Paycheck Protection Program Live Tomorrow

Small businesses throughout the Minnesota can begin applying for the federal Paycheck Protection Program tomorrow. Here is what you need to know:    

What Is it?

  • The Paycheck Protection Program is a nearly $350 billion program intended to provide small businesses with eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100% federally guaranteed loans. It is designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep workers on their payroll.
  • Loans will be given first-come, first-served.
  • The program is available until June 30, 2020.

Who is eligible?

  • Small businesses with fewer than 500 employees are eligible for this program, including non-profits, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, independent contractors (gig economy workers), and veteran organizations.
  • Businesses in certain industries may have more than 500 employees if they meet the SBA’s size standards for those industries listed here: https://www.sba.gov/document/support--table-size-standards
  • Small businesses in the food or hospitality industry with more than one location are also eligible at the store and location level if the store employs less than 500 workers. (Meaning each store location could be eligible.)
  • Businesses must prove that their business has been affected by the coronavirus slowdown.
  • Businesses also must have been in operation as of February 15 to be eligible.

What are the benefits?

  • Loans can be up to 250% of the borrower’s average monthly payroll costs.
  • The entire loan tops out at $10 million.
  • Payroll costs can include: salaries, bonuses, retirement benefits, parental leave, health care benefits, and more.
  • Employee’s salaries top out at an annual compensation of $100,000
  • Loans can be forgiven if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interests, or utilities.
  • Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines or if salaries and wages decrease.
  • Borrowers must provide documentation of these expenses in a loan forgiveness application.
  • No collateral or personal guarantees are required.
  • The government or the lenders will not charge small businesses any fees.
  • You have the opportunity to quickly rehire employees that were laid off due to COVID-19 to recoup their wages through loan forgiveness.
  • The first payment on your loan is deferred for six months to one year.
  • The loan has a maturity of 2 years.
  • The interest rate is capped at 1 percent. Note: this interest rate has changed from 4 to .5 percent over the past few days. It appear 1 percent is the final rate.
  • The loan is approved far more quickly than previous SBA-backed loans.

How do you apply?

  • You are able to apply through any SBA-approved lender. Here is a website to find a lender: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/paycheck-protection-program-ppp
  • Or you can apply through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that participates.
  • You will need to provide your lender with payroll documentation.

When do you apply?

  • Small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply beginning April 3.
  • Independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply beginning April 10.

What is the first step?


April 1: New (Mandated) Federal Employment Posters For Small Businesses Available

As a result of recently passed federal COVID-19 employment law, small businesses need to update their employment posters.  Click here for posters from the U.S. Department of Labor.


April 1: DEED Launches Guide For MN Small Businesses Who Need Help

From DEED: "Over the past few weeks, several state and federal programs have been built to assist small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Different programs make sense for different businesses, so we’re providing this summary guide to help small businesses quickly see which programs might be right for their situation." Click here for the guide.


 March 31: View Our Social Distancing Best Practices For Stores

Retailers across Minnesota are implementing impressive measures to make shopping as safe as possible for customers & employees. To assist retailers, today MnRA released a collection of social distancing best practices. Click here to see the best practices.

March 28: 90-Day Refills Authorized; Chloroquine & Hydroxychloroquine Dispensing Limits To Address Potential Shortages

Exercising authority under previously released Executive Order 20-12, the Minnesota Department of Human Services announced a waiver allowing 90-day Medicaid and MinnesotaCare refills on some maintenance medication. Click here for more information.  Also, under Executive Order 20-23 the Board of Pharmacy is allowed to enforce medication dispensing limitations, ordering a "a prescription drug order for chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine must contain a diagnosis appropriate for the use of these medications and be dispensed for no more than 30 days at a time."


March 27: Trucking Hours & Weights Relaxed For Livestock; Licensing Discretion Given To Health Boards

In Executive Order 20-24, the Governor eased "strict enforcement of certain hours of service and weight restriction regulations would prevent or hinder the efficient transportation of livestock." In addition, in Executive Order 20-23, the Governor gave health boards, including the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, flexibility in licensing modifications, saying the boards “must have authority to appropriately modify licensing and continuing education requirements given the present constraints on the licensing and continuing education process.”


March 27: Congress Passes CARES Act Emergency Relief Package: What It Means For Minnesota's Retailers & Their Employees

Today Congress completed action on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It is noted as the largest single relief package in American history totaling $2 trillion in economic stimulus. The CARES Act is the third round of emergency legislation Congress has approved to help provide action and relief surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, including supporting industries and small businesses, providing cash to Americans, and preventing unemployment. The President is expected to sign the bill immediately. While not an exhaustive list and not all the specifics of each program are included, below are select key provisions we think interest Minnesota retailers:

Paycheck Protection Program: This program provides $350 billion for eight weeks of assistance to small employers maintaining their payroll during the pandemic. For qualifying employers, a portion of the loan covering payroll, mortgages, rent, and utilities may be forgiven. This program is available for small business and employers with less than 500 employees who meet other Small Business Administration requirements.

Emergency EIDL Grants: Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) grants for sole proprietors, independent contractors and more suffering economically due to the COVID-19 outbreak are included in this Act. Businesses applying for an emergency EIDL grant could receive $10,000 within three days to maintain payroll, provide sick leave, and more.

Small Business Debt Relief: Under this $17 billion provision, the Small Business Administration may pay interest, principal, and fees on existing SBA loans for six months to help provide relief to businesses.

Unemployment Benefit Increase: Unemployment benefits will be significantly bolstered for 4 months by increasing payments and extending benefits to those who typically do not qualify, such as gig economy workers, furloughed employees, and freelancers. This bill would increase the maximum unemployment benefit that a state gives to a person by $600 per week. It also provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits to those who are unemployed after state unemployment benefits are no longer available.

Employee Retention Program: The CARES Act provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 emergency. This credit is only available to those employers who had to partially or fully suspend their operations or their gross receipts declined by more than 50% when compared to the same quarter the year before. For employers with more than 100 employees, the qualified wages are wages paid to the employees when they are not providing services related to COVID-19. For employers with fewer than 100 employees, all wages qualify for the credit, whether the employer is open for business or under a shut-down order.

Delayed Payment Of Employer Payroll Taxes: A portion of the bill allows for employers or self-employed individuals to defer payments of the employer share of their Social Security tax. The deferred tax must be paid over the next two years, with half of the amount being paid by December 31, 2021. The other half must be paid by December 31, 2022.

Paid Leave For Rehired Employees: An employee that was laid off on March 1, 2020 or later would now have access to the new federal paid family and medical leave programs if they are rehired by the employer. The employee would have had to have worked for at least 30 days before being laid off.

Cash Payments To Individuals: People making up to $75,000 a year are expected to receive checks for $1,200. Couples making up to $150,000 would receive $2,400 with an additional $500 per child. The payments would decrease for those making more than $75,000 with an income cap of $99,000 per individual or $198,000 for couples.

Modifications Of Net Operating Losses: A provision relaxes the limitations on a company's use of losses. A net operating loss beginning in 2018, 2019, or 2020 can be carried back five years. This section also removes the taxable income limitation to allow a full offset of income temporarily.

Modification Of Limitation On Business Interest: A section of the bill temporarily increases the amount of interest expense that businesses are allowed to deduct on tax returns, with an increase from 30% to 50% of taxable income for 2019 and 2020.


March 26: State Legislature Passes COVID-19 Peacetime Emergency Bill Requested By The Governor

In its first time meeting since March 16, the Minnesota Legislature passed a COVID-19 response bill this afternoon. The Governor is expected to sign the bill yet today.

Below are key points in the bill that may be of interest to retailers:

  • Creation of a $200 million COVID-19 Minnesota Fund for use as directed by Commissioner of Management and Budget with the fund expiring May 11, 2020.
  • Oversight of the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund by a Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission made up of leadership and specific committee chairs.
  • Funding and policy changes to the State unemployment insurance program authorized in Executive Order 20-05 and allowing no-delay access to unemployment benefit, waiver of the five week business owner benefit limit, and stipulation that related claims will not impact an employer's future premiums.
  • Funding and policy to support Executive Order 20-15, making small business loans available to impacted organizations, including $20 million to a special revenue account, and $10 million to the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program for loans made through state economic development partners.
  • Authorization allowing certain local government revolving loan funds to be used for small business relief under Executive Order 20-15.
  • Authorization for the Commissioner of Commerce to delay, investigate and waive licenses during the peacetime emergency declaration.
  • Extending drivers licenses that may have expired during the peacetime emergency declaration, and easing REAL ID requirements.
  • Elimination of opioid prescription refill language passed last year and modification of related fees charged to oxygen supply companies.
  • Authorization of grants to childcare providers serving families of emergency workers.
  • Funding for food shelves and housing.
  • Click here for the full text of the bill.

MnRA thanks the Legislature for this bill and its focus on bridging loans for retailers and relief for Minnesota's workforce.


March 26: Clarification On Executive Order 20-16, Personal Protection Equipment

We received clarification from Governor Walz’s office that his Executive Order 20-16 requiring organizations to report available quantities and preserve Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) applies to products retailers sell to consumers. It is the position of the Governor’s office that retailers selling PPE products report available inventory AND remove those products from sale to consumers.

Does this order apply to retailers selling products to consumers? Yes. In clarification from the Governor’s office, this order applies to retailers offering PPE products for sale to consumers. Those products must be reported and preserved (pulled from shelves, not sold). Read the full Executive Order here.

What is PPE under this order? The definition of PPE under this order appears to be listed in two places:

What PPE needs to be reported? From the Executive Order: “Any Minnesota business, non profit,or non-hospital health care facility, whether veterinary, dental, construction, research, institution of higher learning, or other, in possession of PPE, ventilators, respirators, or anesthesia machines (including any consumable accessories to these devices) that are not required for the provision of critical health care services or essential services and were not produced by the organization for the purpose of sale, must undertake an inventory of such supplies no later than March 25, 2020.”

When is the report due? Reporting was due at 7:00 p.m. March 25. Please report ASAP at https://mn.gov/ppe.

When will I know if my PPE inventory can be returned to store shelves for consumer sale? The Governor’s office has indicated they are currently accessing needs by healthcare workers, and they will provide MnRA  a status update early next week.  It is our hope that if these products are not needed by healthcare workers they can be returned for sale to consumers soon.

What must I do with my PPE product today? Per the Executive Order you must preserve and hold the product for potential future use by healthcare workers (which would be presumably directed by the State) or donate the product. Donation instructions are available here. Language from the Executive Order: “Any Minnesota business, nonprofit, or non-hospital health care facility must refrain from using any such consumable equipment other than for use in delivering critical health care services or essential services requiring such equipment, and must either donate it to a local coordinating entity or prepare for the possibility of being asked to donate or sell it for use by critical health care workers.”

A note from the Walz Administration: “Please extend our appreciation to your retailers for the sacrifices that we’re asking them to make during this challenging time for everyone. Please know that we’re doing everything we can to enable our great state to weather this storm and return to economic strength and a high quality of life.”


March 25: Minnesota Stay At Home Order Begins At 11:59 p.m. Friday Through April 10; Non-Essential Business Ordered Closed

At his 2:00 p.m. update today, Governor Walz took the step most Minnesotans were expecting at some point. In issuing Executive Order 20-20, Minnesotans are told to stay at home with non-essential businesses closing (or allowing employees to work from home). The order runs 11:59 p.m. this Friday through April 10. Businesses deemed essential are allowed to stay open while practicing social distancing and customers/employees are allowed to travel to those businesses. The order is designed to limit movements outside the home to impact the rate of COVID-19 infections.MnRA has appreciated the opportunity to work with the Governor's office on the importance of defining essential retailers as ones that people depend on for goods and services relating to health, welfare and work productivity. Click here to see order 20-20.
 
What is an essential business?: The Walz order takes guidance from the Department of Homeland Security's Guidance On Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, with some additional Minnesota exceptions. Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said 78% of jobs across the state fit the category of "essential", and a more specific list can be seen at www.mn.gov/deed/critical. Included on that page is a form that can be completed should questions arise.
 
Restaurant/Bar Dine-In And Other Public Accommodation Businesses Order Extended To May 1 At 5:00 p.m.: Governor Walz's action today also extends Executive Orders 20-04 and 20-08 relating to restaurant and bar dine-in service, and other public accommodation locations such as bowling alleys and hair salons. That order is extended to May 1. Click here to see order 20-18.
 
School Distance Learning Ordered Through May 4: The Governor also mentioned that distance learning at schools will begin this Monday and run through at least May 4. Click here to see order 20-19.
 
 Reminder: Application Available - New Small Business And Independent Contractor Loan Program: Monday the Governor and Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove announced a small business and independent contractor loan program designed to be a resource that can be accessed quickly, even before Federal Small Business Administration loans are available. The details of the program established under Executive Order 20-15 include:
  • Eligible businesses are those impacted by Executive Orders 20-04 and 20-08 and relating to dine-in service restrictions at bars and restaurants and other public accommodation businesses.
  • Loan amounts available range from $2,500 and $35,000.
  • The five-year loans are 50 percent forgivable with a zero percent interest rate.
  • The Executive Order also allows cities and counties to use State revolving loan funds to assist businesses.
Click here for application information and additional details here. MnRA appreciates the Walz administration opening this new quick-action loan program.

March 23: Governor Announces New MN Small Business & Independent Contractor Loan Program, Suspension of Evictions, Income Tax Date Change To July 15 And Reporting of Personal Protective Equipment; MnRA Joins Peers In Calling For Relief For Retailers

Governor Tim Walz, joined by other administration officials, delivered today's updates via telephone as he is in self-quarantine after having a member of his security detail test positive for COVID-19. The Governor commented in an earlier video message on Twitter that he does not have symptoms but deems it important to respond according to the guidance health officials are giving all Minnesotans.

The Governor commented that he is watching the numbers closely as he weighs a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order, saying that we aren't there yet and Minnesota's by-and-large are doing a good job staying at home.

In other news, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan announced her brother, a Tennessee resident who was fighting cancer, died after testing positive for COVID-19. And U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar said her husband is hospitalized with COVID-19. The Governor predicted that by the end of the pandemic, 40 to 80 percent of Minnesotans will have COVID-19, noting most will not require treatment. The Governor also offered sympathy to the family of the first Minnesota COVID-19 death confirmed Saturday.

MnRA extends our deepest condolences to the Lt. Governor and her family on their loss as well as to the family of Minnesota's first victim , and we send healing thoughts to Kolbuchar's husband John Bessler.

New Small Business And Independent Contractor Loan Program

The Governor and Department of Employment and Economic Development Steve Grove announced a small business and independent contractor loan program designed to be a resource that can be accessed quickly, even before Federal Small Business Administration loans are available. The details of the program are:

  • Eligible businesses are those impacted by Executive Order 20-04 relating to dine-in service restrictions at bars and restaurants and other public accommodation businesses.
  • Loan amounts available range from $2,500 and $35,000.
  • The loans are 50 percent forgivable with a zero percent interest rate.
  • The loans have a five year payback period and are done with the assistance of certified nonprofit lender.
  • The Executive Order also allows cities and counties to use State revolving loan funds to assist businesses.
  • Click here to access more information on the program and the applicaiton process.

Commissioner Grove mentioned that this action frees up $58 million in assistance for small businesses. He also mentioned that since last week the State has received 123,624 applications for unemployment. Click here to read Executive Order 20-15.

MnRA appreciates the Walz administration opening this new quick-action loan program.

Housing Evictions Suspended

The Governor issued Executive order 20-14, suspending housing evictions across the state. Click here to read Executive Order 20-14.

State Individual Income Tax Day Moved To July 15 To Align With Federal Change

Following the Federal government's change to July 15 last week, the Governor announced Minnesota's individual income tax day has changed to July 15.

Businesses Directed To Inventory and Preserve Vital Medical

Equipment

Executive Order 20-16 instructs businesses, non-profits and non-hospital health care facilities to inventory and report possession of personal protective equipment, "ventilators, respirators, or anesthesia machines (including any consumable accessories to these devices) that are not required for the provision of critical health care services or essential services and were not produced by the organization for the purpose of sale". That inventory must be done and reported by March 25 at https://mn.gov/ppe. Click here to read Executive Order 20-16.

MnRA Joins Peers In Requesting Relief In Letters To State And National Leaders

MnRA joined peer organization in articulating critical relief needed by retailers dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the letters here:


March 21: SBA Disaster Loan Program Available To Minnesota Small Businesses

This morning the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced the opening of Small Business Administration loans under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. According to DEED:

  • "This program can provide low-interest loans of up to $2 million to small businesses and private non-profits. 
  • These loans can go toward working capital to meet needs including payroll, accounts payable, and fixed debt payments that can’t be paid due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • The current interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The non-profit rate is 2.75%. 
  • These loans have long-term repayment options, up to a maximum of 30 years."

To apply online visit https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.

For more information visit https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Information/EIDLLoans.


March 20: Governor Announces Price Gouging Executive Order; Federal Government Pushes Tax Day To July 15

Price Gouging Prohibition And Enforcement: After highlighting that Minnesota does not have a price gouging law, the Governor announced Executive Order 20-10, prohibiting price gouging and granting the State Attorney General investigation and enforce authority during the COVID-19 pandemic. His announcement specifically mentioned out of state sellers that may be operating in an unethical manner. See the Executive Order 20-10 here. The Executive Order takes effect March 21 at 5:00 p.m.

Provisions in the Executive Order include:

  • Applying to and defining essential goods as "vital and necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of the public, including without limitation: food, water, fuel, gasoline, housing, shelter, transportation, health care goods and services, pharmaceuticals,medical supplies, and personal hygiene, sanitation, and cleaning goods".
  • Prohibiting charging prices that are a "gross disparity" to a price charged in the immediate 30 days (unless justified).
  • Prohibiting price increases of more than 20% compared to the immediate 30 days (unless justified).
  • Prohibiting a price that "grossly exceeds" similar goods sold at other area stores (unless justified).

Federal Government Moves Tax Day To July 15; MN Indicates It Will Follow: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced this morning that the Federal government has elected to push the April 15 income tax filing date to July 15, with no interest or penalty. During this afternoon's State press conference, Governor Walz commented that Minnesota will likely conform to that Federal change soon. It is unclear if the Legislature will need to meet to approve a Minnesota change.

Governor Says He Is Considering Closing Shopping Malls And Allowing Restaurants To Offer Take-Out Alcohol: At today's press conference a reporter asked the Governor if he is considering closing shopping malls. He responded that he is considering such a move and will consider that and other actions such as allowing golf courses to open (with social distancing) over the coming days. The Governor also mentioned he is considering allowing restaurants to offer alcohol to consumers as take-out items, a service not allowed today.


March 19: Congress Passes & President Signs Emergency Paid Sick Leave Program & Extended FMLA For Businesses Under 500 Employees; Restricted Business List Clarified; Food Distribution Workers Classified As Tier 2 Emergency Workers

As a result of Congress passing and the President singing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) last night, the following federal programs are created:

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (Effective April 2, 2020): Employers with fewer than 500 employees are required to give all employees with a qualifying need related to COVID-19 (subject to stipulations in the law) emergency paid sick leave. Under the law, employers are required to provide the equivalent of two weeks of paid sick leave if an employee is unable to work or telework due to COVID-19 (again subject to stipulations). For full-time employees that equals 80 hours of paid sick leave. For part-time/hourly workers it equals the number of hours worked on a two-week basis. If an employee needs leave to care for a family member, the pay requirements are two-thirds the employee's regular pay (not to exceed $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate). If an employee is sick themselves, in quarantine, or seeking medical diagnosis with COVID-19 symptoms, the paid leave may not exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate. Employees are paid at their regular rate of pay.

An employer cannot require the employee to use their existing paid leave benefits if available before the employee uses the emergency sick leave. This paid leave does not carry over year to year, and expires December 31, 2020. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the sick leave requirements if it would hurt the viability of their business and subject to determination by the U.S. Secretary of Labor. The cost to an employer is paid for via refundable tax credits against an employer's portion of Social Security taxes each quarter, and employers are reimbursed if their costs are greater than taxes owed.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Expansion (Effective April 2, 2020): Employers with fewer than 500 employees must extend FMLA to an employee who has been employed for at least 30 days in the event of a "qualifying need related to a public health emergency" (unable to work or telework due to COVID-19, subject to stipulations. The first 10 days of the emergency FMLA leave may be unpaid however the remainder of the leave must be paid. A covered employer must provide at least 10 weeks of COVID-19 qualifying paid emergency FMLA leave to an eligible employee. The paid leave must be two-thirds of the employee's regular pay and reflect the numbers of hours an employee would normally work in a two-week period. The paid leave must not exceed $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate.

A company with fewer than 50 employees is not subject to a private right of action under FMLA's civil enforcement provisions, and a company with fewer than 50 employees can be exempted from the FMLA requirement if it would hurt the viability of their business. An employer with fewer than 25 employees is not required to hire back an employee after the FMLA leave is completed if the position is no longer there, the employer made effort to hire back the employee in an equivalent position, or an equivalent position is not available in the next year. This program expires December 31, 2020. The cost to an employer for this program is also paid for via refundable tax credits against an employer's portion of social security taxes each quarter, and employers are reimbursed if their costs are greater than taxes owed.

Other News:

Restricted Business List Clarified To Include Hair Salons and Related Businesses: Executive Order 20-08 was issued yesterday to clarify businesses on the list of restricted businesses released March 16. The list now explicitly includes "tanning establishments, body art establishments, tattoo parlors, piercing parlors, businesses offering massage therapy or similar body work, spas, salons, nail salons, cosmetology salons, esthetician salons, advanced practice esthetician salons, eyelash salons, and barber shops. This includes, but is not limited to, all salons and shops licensed by the Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners and the Minnesota Board of Barber Examiners".

Food Distribution Workers Classified As Tier 2 Emergency Workers: The Walz administration has classified "food distribution workers" as tier 2 emergency workers, expanding the childcare options available for those workers under Executive Order 20-02. Food distribution workers are specified as: Food Distribution Centers - drivers, order selectors, forklift loaders, IT personnel, mechanics, sanitation workers; In-Store Food Personnel: store clerks, stockers, food preparation personnel, cleaning staff, deli and produce staff.


March 18: Revenue Department Announces 30 Day Grace Period For March 20 Sales And Use Tax Remittance For Businesses Impacted By Executive Order 20-04; Governor Eases Road Restrictions; Closed Business List Clarified

Sales and Use Tax Grace Period: The Minnesota Department of Revenue announced today that businesses impacted by Executive Order 20-04 (closure of restaurant and bar dine-in service plus others) have an additional 30 days to remit their sales and use tax payments that are due this Friday, March 20. Payments due this Friday can be delayed to April 20 without penalty for impacted businesses, however it is important to note that the sales tax filing is still due Friday. Only the related payment can be delayed. Click here for the Department of Revenue notice, and please read it carefully to determine if your business is eligible for this 30 day grace period. MnRA thanks the Walz administration for this action to assist business with cash flow during this difficult time.

Delivery of Essential Goods: To ease delivery of essentials goods, today Govenor Walz signed Executive Order 20-06. The Order removed weight restrictions on certain roads relating to the "movement of essential supplies including food, medical supplies, and household items transported in support of direct assistance to emergency relief efforts in response to COVID-19". MnRA thanks Governor Walz for this important step to ensuring essential product availability. Reference: Executive Order 20-06.

Pending SBA Relief Loans for Small Businesses: Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove commented today that Minnesota is taking steps to identify relief for small businesses. Grove specifically mentioned that the State is close to making Minnesota eligible for relief loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, and promised an update soon on that initiative.

Restricted Business List Clarified To Include Hair Salons and Related Businesses: Executive Order 20-08 was issued yesterday to clarify businesses on the list of restricted businesses released March 16.  The list now explicitly includes "tanning establishments, body art establishments, tattoo parlors, piercing parlors, businesses offering massage therapy or similar body work, spas, salons, nail salons, cosmetology salons, esthetician salons, advanced practice esthetician salons, eyelash salons, and barber shops. This includes, but is not limited to, all salons and shops licensed by the Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners and the Minnesota Board of Barber Examiners".

Food Distribution Workers Classified As Tier 2 Emergency Workers: The Walz administration classified "food distribution workers" as tier 2 emergency workers, expanding the childcare options available for those workers under Executive Order 20-02.  Food distribution workers are specified as:  Food Distribution Centers - drivers, order selectors, forklift loaders, IT personnel, mechanics, sanitation workers; In-Store Food Personnel: store clerks, stockers, food preparation personnel, cleaning staff, deli and produce staff.


March 16: Governor Announces Restrictions On Dine-In Restaurants and Bars, Gyms, Bowling Alleys, Brew Pubs and More

The confirmed cases of coronavirus in Minnesota reached 54 today.

Moments ago Governor Tim Walz, joined by Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcomb and Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove, announced the following as the administration's next step in fighting the spread of COVID-19:

  • According to Walz, "we cannot stop this from spreading but we can stop how fast it is spreading and protect our most vulnerable." He commented that he is still seeing people congregate in large numbers. "We understand the magnitude of what we are doing but we need people to stop congregating."
  • Walz issued executive order 20-03, a partial closure of places of public accommodation and amusement where on premise food and beverage consumption takes place. This includes restaurants, bars, taverns, brew clubs, breweries, theaters, gyms, bowling alleys, and more.
  • The order takes effect tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. through 5:00 p.m. March 27, at which point it will be reevaluated.
  • The order effects dine-in service, but allows for curbside pick-up, delivery and drive-thru.
  • Food orders must be sealed so there is no tampering and face-to-face contact between deliverer and consumer discouraged.
  • The Governor made clear that grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies can remain open and are encouraged to do so.
  • Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove announced the suspension of the Unemployment Insurance waiting period for impacted employees to allow immediate access to the benefit system.
  • In addition Grove mentioned that under executive order 20-04 the State will suspend the Unemployment Insurance employer surcharge.
  • The Governor commented that there may be additional closures coming

"The full list of business affected by this rule closing is below:

  1. Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses and other places of public accommodation offering food or beverage for on-site consumption. This excludes institutional and in-house food cafeterias for business, hospitals, and long-term care facilities;
  2. Bars, taverns, brew pubs, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, clubs, and other places of public accommodation that offer alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption;
  3. Hookah bars, cigar bars, and vaping lounges offering their products for on-premise consumption;
  4. Theaters, cinemas, museums, and indoor and outdoor performance venues;
  5. Gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities, exercise studios, and spas;
  6. Amusement parks, arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor climbing facilities, skating rinks, trampoline parks, and other similar recreational or entertainment facilities;
  7. Facilities of country clubs, golf clubs, boating or yacht clubs, sports or athletic clubs, and dining clubs.

Minnesota joins Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Washington state with restaurant and bar restrictions.


 

March 15: Governor Holds Sunday Press Conference Announcing COVID-19 School Strategies That Include Closure Wednesday Through March 27

This morning Governor Tim Walz held a rare Sunday press conference to lay out the administration's strategy surrounding COVID-19 and Minnesota's schools. The Governor's comments included:

  • Minnesota's K-12 districts and charter schools will be ordered closed Wednesday, March 18 through March 27.
  • Schools may begin closing as soon as tomorrow.
  • A new executive order (20-02) is designed to address the resources needed to help Minnesotans manage the closure, including childcare for healthcare workers.
  • The closure allows the State to put in place the pieces needed for online learning in the event the closure needs to expand.
  • Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker mentioned that it is the administration's position that schools should continue to pay and integrate hourly workers in their plans during this closure.
  • Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said the State is closely monitoring federal legislation to replace worker lost pay, and he encouraged the Minnesota Legislature to act to modify sick leave and unemployment programs so they are covering COVID-19 absences.
  • Commissioner Grove also encouraged employers to be flexible and accommodating to impacted employees.

March 13:Governor Walz's Community Guidance Press Conference

Governor Tim Walz was joined by Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm at a press conference where they announced the following community mitigation strategies for Minnesota:

  • The Governor signed executive order 20-01, a peacetime state of emergency to allow the State to more rapidly react to CORVID-19.
  • The Governor called this action necessary to get the State in to a "heightened state of readiness to protect Minnesota".
  • The executive order allows Minnesota to access tools, but the Governor said that no specific tools are "being taken out of the toolbox" at this time.
  • The Governor called on the Minnesota Legislature to act quickly on a few items in the event the Legislature needs to modify its schedule.
  • The Heath Commissioner announced the following community mitigations RECOMMENDATIONS to slow person to person transmission:
      o Cancelling or postponing gatherings of 250 or more people.
      o Cancelling or postponing smaller gatherings where social distancing (6 feet) can not be maintained.
      o Teleworking and limiting non-essential work travel when possible.
      o School closures are likely only necessary when a threat is present at a school as students and teens are at the lower end of the risk spectrum.
  • The Health Commissioner mentioned that the State DOES NOT INTEND  TO SUGGEST Minnesotans should limit their normal activities including shopping, and public places such as airports and shopping centers should only be avoided by high risk people.
  • Also at the press conference, the State Attorney General asked Minnesotans to report price gouging.
  • Click here for the document distibtuted at the press confernence relating to the State action plan.

The Governor, legislative leaders, and the Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice met last night to discuss mitigation strategies for the State Capitol and other state buildings. Following that meeting the House announced the cancellation of hearings today and the Senate put visitor restrictions in place. On Monday both the House and Senate meet at 11:00 a.m. It is expected that both bodies will announce a modified schedule in the wake of the pandemic.


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