Businesses hopeful for state COVID-19 relief bill

Businesses hopeful for state COVID-19 relief bill

ST. PAUL, Minn. (KEYC) — Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency powers are tentatively set to expire next week, though he’s made it clear that he will call a seventh special session.

It’ll be their last before the new year. However, this time around, Walz said he wants to focus on an economic relief package.

The top four leaders in the state legislature expressed optimism during an online forum Friday that lawmakers can agree on a new coronavirus relief package in time for a Dec. 14 special session, though negotiations are still continuing.

There appears to be general agreement helping businesses hit by partial closure and on extending unemployment benefits. But Republicans have not embraced a proposal for $500 one-time payments to low-income families.

In late November, Walz introduced the proposal for the package.

His proposal includes waiving state and regulatory fees for bars, restaurants, event centers, extending unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks and the $500 payment.

Steven Hultengren owns It’s About Time Clock Repair in St. Peter, one of many businesses that would benefit from financial assistance.

“It’s like we’re treading along and just hanging right in there,” he said.

Hultengren said it takes $1,500 per month to stay in business.

He said his business would benefit from anything that helps with the bills.

“When things started getting back to normal, business started increasing. Now that things have gotten strict again, now that business has started to slow down, it’s very sporadic,” he said.

Now businesses like his are looking for relief at the state level.

Walz said he will work with both sides of the aisle and plans to call a special session as soon as the legislature agrees on a package.

Local lawmakers Sen. Nick Frentz (DFL - North Mankato) and Rep. Jeremy Munson (R - Lake Crystal) each have their own ideas on what they would like to see included in the bill.

“One, we need to help our businesses, especially our small businesses including bars and restaurants. Two, we need to help working men and women. Those at the bottom end of the income spectrum have been most affected. In addition, I think we possibly can do more with regulatory relief for some of the bars and restaurants,” Frentz said.

Munson is among Republicans against the $500 payment.

“The service industry that’s struggling under these executive orders locking them down, I think the relief to them is to allow them to reopen. If there is regulatory relief or removing licensing or licensing fees, I would be supportive of that. One of the biggest issues right now is that the Democrats are pushing for a bill to send $500 checks to everyone who’s on welfare,” he said.

Hultengren said he hopes lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will keep one thing in mind.

“Try to reduce the amount of delay time. Let’s say some poor person fell overboard on a boat. You don’t want to wait three weeks to throw them a lifesaver,” he said.

House Republicans also unveiled a package in November proposing a $400 million grant fund designed to help restaurants, bars, breweries, bowling alleys, gyms and others that were ordered to close or limit operations.

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