Rep. Ecklund votes to deliver urgent COVID-19 economic assistance to Minnesotans
Monday night, the Minnesota House approved a new economic assistance package designed to help small businesses and workers struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation includes direct financial assistance to the hardest hit businesses and helps protect economic security for workers by extending unemployment benefits.
“The economic hardship businesses and workers are doing through requires our urgent attention. I’m proud we could come together to deliver this bipartisan assistance to the businesses that have been impacted the worst,” said Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls). “It was also important that we ensure struggling workers have the extra help to make ends meet provided by unemployment benefits. I know uncertainty isn’t over, and the federal government needs to do its part to deliver aid at the significant level it’s capable of, and with a vaccine upon us we can begin making progress to defeat the virus.”
The legislation delivers a $216 million package of economic assistance to small businesses. Of this, $88 million comes in the form of direct financial aid to businesses experiencing economic harm due to the pandemic. Those eligible businesses include restaurants, bars, coffee shops, breweries, wineries and distilleries with taprooms or tasting rooms, caterers, bowling alleys, and some gyms and fitness centers. The legislation also includes $14 million worth of grants to movie theaters and large convention centers. The remaining $114.8 million will be made available to counties for grants to other affected businesses, including hotels, museums, arcades and live theater venues.
To help workers displaced as a result of the pandemic, the bill provides a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits. Without action from the Legislature, over 100,000 Minnesota workers could lose benefits on December 26 when funding under the federal CARES Act is set to expire.
The bill also waives or delays a series of fees for the hospitality industry, including 2 a.m. liquor licenses for bars, caterers that serve alcohol, wastewater permitting fees for small breweries, and certain late payment penalties for food-related businesses. Finally, the legislation extends the deadline for families to apply for free and reduced-price lunch.