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Update from Representative Ben Lien

  • 15 Dec 2020
  • 2:00 PM

The Legislature adjourned at 2:30 this morning after passing financial support for small businesses and workers directly impacted by COVID-19, temporary assistance for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, an extension of telehealth services in patients’ homes, the Workers Compensation Council’s 2020 policy recommendations, and updates to assisted living facility licensure.

The financial support for small businesses comes through three pots of money. $88 million goes the Department of Revenue (Revenue) for direct payments to restaurants, bars, caterers, on-sale breweries and distilleries, bowling alleys, and gyms based on certain requirements. These requirements are that they’ve been directly impacted by Gov. Walz’s recent business closure orders, have seen a 30% drop in revenue as compared to 2019, did at least $10,000 in sales in 2019, have a physical presence in the State of Minnesota, and are in good standing with Revenue.

$14 million goes to the Dept. of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) for grants to movie theaters and large convention centers directly impacted by Gov. Walz’s recent business closures.

Lastly, $114.8 million goes to the counties to disburse the money to small businesses and non-profits in ways that best meet the local economies. Clay County is expected to receive about $1.275 million.

The economic assistance bill also expands 13 weeks of Unemployment Insurance benefits for workers who are nearing the end of their current benefits. Very unfortunately, this bill does not provide an extension to independent contractors and self-employed people as the benefits they’ve received came from a special federal program (the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance).

I understand this economic relief will not make small businesses whole or reach everyone who needs help right now. I know people who’ve built their businesses from scratch are hanging on by threads for themselves and their employees. I’ve contacted Gov. Walz to ask if there’s anything we can do for businesses to open in some sort of limited capacity to stay afloat. I sincerely wish the state could do more to help everyone at this greatest hour of need. This bill is designed to provide a lifeline until, hopefully, the federal government gets its act together and recognizes the real pain and true hardship out there impacting so many Americans rather than continuing to politicize this pandemic. The states are flailing in the wind trying to hold it together while the federal government for months has done nothing to assist the American people. I also sincerely hope the business owners considering opening their doors against the governor’s orders reach out to our congressional delegation and mandate a substantial economic relief bill is passed. Now. Violating the governor’s orders right now is not the answer. For people who are holding on by their fingernails, we need the federal government to act. Now. For people who are just sick and tired of Gov. Walz’s executive orders and emergency powers, but are doing ok with their businesses, we’re all sick and tired of this virus dominating our lives. We all want to get back to our normal lives again. But going back to life as normal right now would have disastrous consequences. It was just weeks ago that the Dakotas were the worst hot spots in the world in terms of the highest case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths per capita. They were sending their coronavirus patients to Minnesota because of their overloaded hospitals. It’s the health care providers and professionals who are asking Gov. Walz to mandate these executive orders. It’s the doctors and nurses who are asking the governor to give them some space and an opportunity to treat the critically ill patients their seeing right now. They’re fried and need help. We need to take this seriously. COVID-19 is not Fake News. It’s the mask wearing, social distancing, limiting contact with each other, and personal decisions we make that will reduce the spread of the virus, give our hospitals they space they need, and keep small businesses open. I know this is all incredibly difficult for people to do. We’re social beings and all want to see our friends and families again. But we have to pull together for just a little bit longer. We need to hold on and demonstrate some humility to think beyond our own 21st century instant gratification comforts, and recognize the times we’re in demand sacrifice. I again and again think back to the sacrifices my grandparents made through the Great Depression and WWII that preserved the freedoms we have today. And more Americans have died from the coronavirus than WWII combat. Our constitutional rights will never be taken away. We’ll always have the right to say whatever we want, own and carry firearms, vote, have protections against illegal searches and seizures, have access to a free press, and observe whatever religion we want. These times demand more from us, and vaccines are coming. There is light at the end of this horrible tunnel. We will get through this as one strong American people.

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PO Box 612, Moorhead, MN 56561

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