The proposal represents the Senate Republican Omnibus Jobs and Economic Development Appropriations Bill. The general fund target for this bill was $100 million and the entire target was expended on a small business loan guarantee program. The remaining priorities within this proposal were funded by some small general fund adjustments but most of the other priorities are funded out of the Workforce Development Fund.
The centerpiece of the proposal, the small business loan guarantee program is flawed. It’s based on a program that was developed to help businesses with expenses at the beginning stages of the pandemic. However, the program was not utilized in a significant way as businesses were not earning enough revenue to take on additional loans as they were facing significant uncertainty. For many businesses, the uncertainty remains, and they will be reluctant to take on more debt.
This proposal also leaves out important equity projects as well. We know equity projects are needed to help more people in Minnesota achieve success. The State of Minnesota ranks at the bottom of many measurements nationally relative to the wealth gaps that occur in our state. The only way to address these gaps is to be mindful of them and provide resources to help all communities find success. This bill falls short in addressing these issues, more needs to be done.
Several policy provisions are also divisive, as they remove the governor’s authority and re-opens businesses regardless of what is happening with the pandemic. Additionally, this proposal does not include the Paid Family and Medical Leave Proposal that was foundational to the governor’s budget proposal.
While the bill contains many problems, it does contain some policy items that are helpful: protecting nursing mothers and lactating employees, data protection for minors, extends unemployment insurance to seniors and secondary students though it could take years to see a benefit. The bill also extends the temporary suspension of the five-week UI business owner benefit limitation and making UI benefits available when workers take a leave of absence to protect their health for COVID-19 reasons.
It is anticipated that this proposal will be heard early next week in the Finance Committee. (SF 1098)