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Legislation to aid in the recovery of businesses damaged during last summer’s civil unrest passes its first committee hurdle

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

St. Paul, MN - Today, the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee advanced HF 728, which would authorize the use of appropriation bonds for businesses damaged during last summer’s civil unrest in Minneapolis and St. Paul. State Representative Fue Lee (DFL - Minneapolis), who chairs the Capital Investment Committee, is the chief author of the legislation. 

“Through no fault of their own, entire communities of small businesses were devastated last summer, many of them owned by and serving Black, Indigenous, and communities of color,” said Rep. Lee. “Minnesotans have stepped up in so many ways to help their neighbors, and while local and private funding initiatives have helped, the need remains too great and is more than those sources can cover alone. This is an unprecedented and extraordinary situation, and the one-time use of appropriation bonds in this manner provides us with a means to release a large amount of funds to provide this sorely needed assistance without putting the general fund’s ability to provide for other essential areas of our state budget in jeopardy.”

This bill authorizes the sale of $300 million in appropriation bonds to assist private businesses with physical infrastructure redevelopment needs from the damage sustained during last year’s civil unrest. $200 million would go to Minneapolis to be distributed to local impacted businesses via their Commercial Property Development Fund, and $100 million would go to St. Paul to be distributed to local impacted businesses via their Housing and Redevelopment Authority. 

“As Minnesotans, we come together to help one another in a time of need, and it’s time for us to help our small businesses, many of which are owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color, through no fault of their own were impacted by last year’s civil unrest,” said Rep. Rena Moran (DFL - St. Paul), who chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means. “For our communities to thrive, our small businesses need the opportunity to thrive, we must help them rebuild. These investments – made with an eye toward equity – will help ensure our neighborhoods can be vibrant and successful.”

The cities would be required to keep the grant funds in a separate account, ensuring that these funds are only paid out to the bondable expenses authorized by the legislation and not mixed with other funding sources those programs may have. Grant funds are to be used for redevelopment that furthers the goals of rebuilding and retaining existing small businesses and enhancing economic opportunities for long-term residents.

“This critical legislation is part of our ongoing conversation on racial healing and rebuilding our communities,” said Rep. Jay Xiong (DFL - St. Paul), a co-author of the bill and member of the Capital Investment Committee. “It’s important for us to preserve the unique character of our impacted commercial and cultural corridors within our BIPOC communities. Furthermore, we ought to be doing all we can to ensure our mom and pop shops, especially, can recover from the civil unrest and ongoing pandemic and emerge stronger than before.”

While past forms of assistance are helping the impacted communities, too many small businesses have fallen through the cracks. Recent estimates show that there remains around $250 million in uninsured, infrastructure-related expenses for small businesses just along the Lake Street corridor in Minneapolis, not including publicly owned buildings or those owned by large corporations. The $12 million in funds from the state’s disaster account, released in November, were only used for repairing public infrastructure. 

“Whenever catastrophe damages businesses across Minnesota, we step up to help each other, no matter the zip code,” said Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL - Minneapolis), a co-author of the bill and member of the Capital Investment Committee. “Whether it’s West Broadway, Lake Street, or University Avenue, inaction in assisting these communities will only continue our lack of investment in Black, Indigenous, and Minnesotans of color from owning and operating businesses in the communities where they live. As we continue to recover, we need to make sure these businesses aren’t left behind.”

The legislation advanced through the committee on a party-line vote of 11-8 and was referred to the House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee. More information and supporting materials are available on the committee’s webpage. Video recording of today’s hearing will be made available on the House Public Information YouTube channel