News coming out of the Minnesota State Capitol finally includes some potential good news for hospitality businesses and unemployed workers: a $216 million relief plan will send targeted payments to businesses affected by the governor’s mandatory pause and extend unemployment benefits for workers for 13 more weeks.
An estimated $102 million will go to restaurants, breweries, wineries, bowling alleys, and health clubs, which have been closed as gathering places since November 21. The relief will be distributed as grants and other payments, depending on the size of each employer and the extent of lost sales. Sales tax numbers will be used to determine that figure.
The bipartisan bill will ensure that workers will not lose state unemployment benefits, set to expire for many on the day after Christmas. How long those payments will continue is being debated. According to reports, Minnesota DFL lawmakers are pushing for 13 weeks extension, while GOP legislators have agreed to five weeks.
The state aid is set to fill the gap left by the lack of aid from the federal government as that stimulus bill continues to languish. If Congress were to pass the national relief package, those funds are expected to backfill those being used by the state.
While the aid is being negotiated, Minnesota lawmakers continue to avoid discussions of off-sale liquor law changes to allow businesses to sell cocktails to go. For restaurants with a full bar, it’s estimated that 40 percent of profits come from alcohol sales. States like New York, Iowa, and Illinois who have loosened those laws have seen a bump in sales and employment while restaurants continue to operate under pandemic restrictions.
This news comes after a Friday report by Mpls./St. Paul Magazine stating several restaurants and bars from around the state planned to re-open this Wednesday in defiance of the governor’s order.
Restaurants in Michigan and a bar owner on Staten Island have chosen to ignore restrictions and fines in favor of re-opening despite rising COVID-19 cases in the state, with varying repercussions.