December 15, 2020

7th Special Session Convenes

Monday, the Minnesota Legislature met in the 7th and most likely last Special Session of 2020.  The Session was made necessary when Governor Walz decided to continue the extension of his Emergency Executive Order related to the management of the Coronavirus.  The Governor is required to call the Legislature into session to provide both bodies the opportunity to strip him of his emergency authority.

The Minnesota Senate passed a resolution ending the Governor’s authority on a bipartisan vote of 40-25.  Four members of the Senate DFL and Independent Senators Bakk and Tomassoni joined all members of the Senate GOP in supporting the resolution.  A similar resolution did not pass the Minnesota House.
The Minnesota Legislature also passed Senate File 31, which included provisions providing immediate economic relief to businesses directly impacted by the Governor’s November Executive Order 20-99.  Many of the specifics of the business relief package were released last week.  The proposal was modified this afternoon, but the overall package still provides $216 million in support to Minnesota businesses.  The Senate passed the bill 62-4, the House passed the bill 117-13.  Businesses who receive the grants must have been in good standing with the Department of Revenue as of November 1, 2020.  The bill provides relief in the following manner:
  •  $88 million, instead of the $100 million announced last week, for a program administered by the Minnesota Department of Revenue (MNDOR). Businesses eligible for this relief will be identified by the Department of Revenue and based upon a 30% reduction in sales.  Sales reductions will be determined by comparing 2019 Q2 and Q3 sales tax submissions to sales tax submissions in Q2 and Q3 2020.  Support in this category is limited to restaurants, bars, breweries, gyms, fitness studios, bowling alleys, and other sports recreation centers directly impacted by the Governor’s Executive Order No. 20-99.  Grant recipients must have generated a minimum of $10,000 in revenue in 2019 and have a physical presence in the state.  Eligible businesses will not need to apply for these grants.  The size of the grants will be based upon the following employee counts:
    • $10,000 to each small business that does not participate in the unemployment insurance program.
    • $15,000 to each business that employs 20 workers or less.
    • $25,000 to each business that employs more than 20 workers but no more than 100.
    • $35,000 to each business that employs more than 100 workers but no more than 300.
    • $45,000 to each business that employs more than 300 workers
  • $14 million for grants issued by the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). These grants will be targeted to support movie theaters and convention centers.  DEED will provide a system for these businesses to apply for the grants.  These grants will be distributed in the following manner:
    • $9 million in movie theater support. Eligible movie theaters will receive grants of $15,000 per screen for the first two screens, $10,000 for each additional screen but no theater shall receive more than $150,000 in grants.
    • $5 million in Convention Center support.  Convention Centers with a capacity more than 1,500 people shall receive a grant proportional to the size of the venue and its workforce.  No convention center will receive a grant of more $500,000. Grant funds may only be used for the direct operations and upkeep of convention center facilities.
  • $114.8 million for County administered grants, this is $12 million more than what was announced last week.  Allows counties to make grants to both businesses and nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Requires the grant recipient to be located in the county awarding the grant or on adjacent tribal lands.  Counties may contract with a nonprofit to administer a grant program.  Counties will establish the grant amounts and criteria for eligibility. If a business receives funds under the program administered by the Department of Revenue, those businesses may also be eligible for the county grant programs.   Counties must return any undistributed funds back to the general fund by April 15, 2021 and complete their distribution by March 31, 2020.  Each county will receive a minimum of $250,000 or $19.25/resident whichever is greater.  The county allotments are $50,000 more than what was announced last week. 
 In addition to the financial support the business relief package also provided for licensing relief to catering companies, breweries, bars and restaurants.  To get an agreement on legislation providing support to businesses most impacted by the Governor’s shutdowns, Governor Walz and DFL leaders required the legislation to include a 13-week extension to Minnesota’s Unemployment.