A 300-million-dollar COVID response package is on its way to the desk of Governor Tim Walz after the Minnesota House and Senate passed it Thursday. Duluth Democrat Erik Simonson objects it doesn’t help law enforcement and first responders, who can’t shelter at home and if they come down with COVID-19, could be forced to use up their sick time and health insurance. Simonson told fellow lawmakers, “These are unprecedented times, members, and I don’t know — I cannot figure out for the life of me — why we ignored these folks.” Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka responds the measure didn’t have the nod from the trades and the business community on the Workers Compensation Council. “Both of those sides had to agree, and the fact that they did not support this led me to believe that we shouldn’t be doing it,” Gazelka says.
Republicans in the Senate say the COVID relief package doesn’t do enough to help small businesses. “They’re working on the margins to begin with and then, when we’re shutting ’em down, they’re not gonna be coming back,” says East Grand Forks Senator Mark Johnson. Saint Cloud Senator Jerry Relph says the business loans in the current package only help “restaurants, public gatherings and some of the service providers such as cosmetologists, barbers, etc. This bill needs to go far, far beyond those narrow businesses.”
Senate Majority Leader Gazelka says of the nearly 600 million dollars the legislature has appropriated so far for COVID-19 relief, only 30 to 40 million is for small businesses. “In the next phase moving forward, that is an area that I expect some help. Again, all of us working together, what can we do to make sure that these small businesses make it through this tough time,” Gazelka says.