SAINT PAUL, Minn. – To allow for the safe operation of businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, a bill was introduced establishing a waiver system allowing businesses that create plans and are deemed low-risk to safely re-open. The system would be in place for the duration of the peacetime emergency.
“Our most important responsibility during this crisis is to keep Minnesotans safe, but we can also take steps to ensure the safe operation of many businesses throughout the state if we take necessary precautions and establish guidelines,” said Senator Karla Bigham. “This waiver system would provide a structure and process that would give our businesses and workers firm guidance on how to do this in a safe and responsible way.”
To determine whether a business is low-risk, the Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development and the Commissioner of Health would identify businesses, by type or category, that are either low risk or could adopt procedures to make the business low risk for putting the health and safety of a business owner, workers, and the general public at risk due to potential exposure of the owner, workers, and the general public to COVID-19.
These businesses would then submit a plan for safe operation including details of the operation of the businesses and how they are mitigating risks from COVID-19. Within five business days of receiving the application, the Commissioner would issue or deny a waiver, and give further guidance to any business that has an incomplete plan. The waivers would be displayed publicly. More information about the bill is available here.
Senator Bigham also voted yes on legislation Tuesday providing relief for Minnesota small businesses who can demonstrate a financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. The $60 million bill is divided into $30 million for grants to Minnesota Initiative Foundations for distribution in greater Minnesota, with $30 million for businesses in the seven-county metro area. The legislation is specifically targeted to S CORPS, Limited Liability Companies, and sole proprietors who were unable to receive Paycheck Protection Program and Small Business Administration funding.
“Through no fault of their own, businesses across the state did the right thing and shut down, slowing the rate of COVID-19 but are now struggling until we can get to the next phase for their reopening,” said Senator Bigham. “This relief would help small businesses throughout the state who were unable to receive federal assistance get some much-needed state support.”
Additionally, $18 million must be awarded to individual businesses that employ 5 or fewer full-time workers (micro-loans) and $9 million is reserved for minority owned, business majority owned by veterans, or businesses that are majority owned and operated by women. The grants are capped at $10,000 per business.