Walz Establishes Emergency Loan Program for Small Businesses
Gov. Tim Walz on Monday pledged to provide more assistance to Minnesota’s small businesses.
Under an executive order issued Monday, the governor established an emergency loan program to provide up to $35,000 in loans to small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 crisis. The program, which leverages $30 million from special revenue funds at Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development, will provide between $2,500 and $35,000 for small companies in the state.
The loans will be 50 percent forgivable, said DEED commissioner Steve Grove during the governor’s Monday afternoon conference call. Minnesota’s new loan program is separate from the Small Business Administration’s emergency loan program, which provides loans for up to $2 million.
Grove said the state’s program is aimed at helping companies stay afloat while waiting for federal money.
“We know that funding may take some time to land, so that money may not be coming fast enough to help Minnesota small businesses,” he said. “What we have done under the governor’s direction is look for a way to bridge that gap.”
The state expects anywhere from 1,500 to 5,000 companies to take advantage of the new program.
Minnesota’s loan program also extends to independent contractors and freelancers, many of whom aren’t eligible for the state’s unemployment insurance program.
“We know small businesses and independent contractors are among the worst hit by the COVID-19 crisis,” Grove said. “We’re getting floods of calls from businesses and workers who are telling us they may need to shut down soon. We have been evaluating every option at our disposal to help.”
As scores of Minnesota businesses temporarily close their doors, the number of applications for unemployment insurance benefits continues to grow. Since last Monday, the state has received more than 123,000 applications, Grove said. That’s up from 95,000 as of Thursday.
Meanwhile, Walz issued three other executive orders on Monday, one of which prohibits evictions during the coronavirus pandemic. The two other orders deal primarily with the supply of masks and ventilators in the state. One of Walz’s new orders calls for all “non-hospital entities” to take inventory of their personal protective equipment, such as masks and ventilators. The other order called on veterinarians to halt elective surgeries to conserve the supply of medical equipment.
During his conference call on Monday, Walz stopped short of issuing a so-called “shelter-in-place” order in the state, although governors in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan have done so. The term, which originates from active shooter scenarios, would simply mean more restrictions on movement for residents, along with the closure of “non-essential” businesses.
As of Monday afternoon, the data do not present a clear case for issuing a shelter-in-place order in Minnesota, said Walz, who gave the conference over the phone after one of his staffers tested positive for COVID-19.
“There’s not a clear-cut answer on this,” Walz told reporters. “I’m certainly reading and listening to experts as best I can.”