Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's been a challenging couple of weeks for Minnesotans. COVID-19 infection rates are rapidly rising across the state and region, and Governor Walz issued more executive orders last week that once again shuttered businesses.
Along with the orders that limit social gatherings - including on Thanksgiving - the new orders closed restaurants, fitness centers, bowling alleys and movie theaters for in-person business for four weeks.
I have received countless emails and phone calls from constituents about how difficult these orders are on families and businesses. I appreciate everyone who has reached out to my office to share their frustrations and concerns. As your representative, I will continue to seek a balance between protecting public health and limiting the spread of this serious disease, and protecting the interest of your family and our small businesses.
Let me start with supporting our local small businesses:
Since the governor's announcement, I have been working with a group of my colleagues on plans to offer relief to those most impacted by these executive orders. This has been one of the most difficult years in history for Main Street businesses that are truly the fabric of our communities. They endured weeks of closure earlier in the year, but had some support from the CARES Act that helped them survive. Today the situation is more dire. The reality is that our small businesses are in trouble, and if we wait until January to act even more of them will have closed for good.
The centerpiece of our House GOP plan - should it pass - is $400 million in immediate grant assistance to businesses impacted by the most recent set of executive orders. This includes restaurants, bars, gyms, dance studios, VFW's and American Legions, bowling alleys, and theaters. The grant money would initially come from Minnesota's budget reserve but would eventually be backfilled by future aid packages approved by the federal government. These grants would be targeted at businesses that have been most impacted by the mandated closures - those that have seen a 35% or higher reduction in their revenues. The grants would be administered at the county level, which would help us get those dollars out as quickly as possible.
Our plan would also provide a 3-month sales tax holiday for businesses that have been limited to takeout or curbside-only operations, and a 3-month sales tax holiday that begins upon reopening for businesses that are currently mandated to be closed altogether. Additionally, our plan would provide some flexibility for those establishments (like micro-breweries) that sell alcohol, and would also reopen our fitness centers and gyms earlier than December 18th.
I fully expect the other legislative caucuses to bring their relief ideas forward as well. All of this is good news, as it shows a mutual understanding that these businesses are in real trouble and need our assistance right now. I look forward to working with all of my colleagues, and the Governor's Office, to finalize a bipartisan package in the days ahead.
Supporting our businesses and protecting public health isn't an "either-or" decision. For me, it is a "both-and" situation. We all know that coronavirus infection rates are rising as are hospitalizations. Hospital capacity - and maintaining our healthcare workforce - is a serious concern right now.
As always, I'd like to encourage you to protect your neighbors and loved ones as you go about your lives. Wash your hands. Socially distance. Wear a mask. And make decisions that will keep your family safe, because if you keep your family healthy, our communities will all benefit.
Good news about vaccines keeps coming and that gives me hope that we will see the light at the end of this. Stay positive and look out for your family and your neighbors. We can all work together to fight this pandemic.
Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving,