ACCESS | MARCH 26, 2020
Join us for a LIVE Zoom Interview with Mayor Carter and hear more about Funding for Micro Businesses and Solo Entrepreneurs
Friday, March 27 | 8:30 - 9:30 AM

Register now for a live interview with Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and hear more details about the proposed new small business and family relief fund for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO B Kyle and Brooke Lee, President of Anchor Paper, will interview Mayor Carter Friday and take written questions from viewers.
This week our ACCESS newsletter is a bit of a hybrid and includes both our daily Situation Report and news of upcoming digital content we're getting back to offering. We've received great feedback on the usefulness of these updates. If you want to continue receiving them, please opt in to receive our daily COVID-19 Situation Reports or view them on our COVID-19 web page.

As of midnight tomorrow night, most of us are Staying At Home for the next two weeks. Still working, but doing so from our dining room tables. I read a fascinating article yesterday ranking states’ compliance in the social distancing commitment. For the goal-oriented among you, you’ll be proud to know that Minnesota earns an A for compliance in the social distancing thus far. I feel like there’s a punch line in there somewhere... Joking aside, it looks like we’re following the rules. Mostly. A few counties in the state apparently can’t get enough of one another’s company! But, overall, we’re honoring the ask of state government and reducing our social contact by about 50%.

Beyond that, business is still scrambling. So are we. Today has been about filtering and summarizing information, focusing on the most important questions: can I get Unemployment Insurance? Are we a critical industry? What loans/grants am I eligible for? What can we expect from the state’s Legislature and the U.S. Stimulus – CARES – bill? So we’ll get right to it.

Before we do, I’d like to pause a moment and say “Thank You” to the healthcare community. Healthcare is one of the top employers in Saint Paul and the region, and they also are on the front lines of dealing with this public health crisis. It's important to acknowledge the important contribution of hospitals, companies like Ecolab, Medtronic, 3M, and other industries like banking are making collectively to help. Their commitment serves as a good reminder of the breadth and diversity of our economy. Consider the burden being placed on hospitals and health care staff – and support them when you can. 

COVID-19 update
As of this morning, 346 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. Of those, 41 cases required hospitalization and 134 already are on the mend such that they no longer need to be isolated. In total 12,950 tested, 2 deaths. The counties represented now represent a significant section of the state, the highest count being in Hennepin County at 128 and Ramsey County at 32. The rest of the East Metro: Dakota County at 25, and Washington County at 15. 

In Saint Paul
Saint Paul’s Mayor Carter presented his Bridge Fund plan to the City Council on Wednesday. He wants to provide an immediate response in the form of grants, reaching out to families and micro businesses experiencing the most urgent needs. The plan is for the City Council to vote on it April 1. I am interviewing the Mayor on Friday morning – you can join us or you can watch the recording later. Register here and tune in!

At the State Level
Approximately 28% of Minnesotans may be unemployed due to the Executive Orders issued thus far.

DEED continues to work on clarifying the “critical industries” list. Some initial wrinkles have been addressed, particularly concerning the construction industry. Still outstanding are many sectors, including the printing industry: the manufacturers/distributors are considered “critical,” but – at this time – the printers who deliver to the end users – like hospitals – are not. DEED has committed to working through all the challenges, and there are many.

Do you have questions about whether or not yours is a “Critical Industry”? Seek clarification here.

Today, the Minnesota legislature met to pass HF 4531. The bill is an omnibus created to establish a COVID-19 response fund as well as modified rules and timelines for multiple policies and appropriated money for programs and support. The bill can be found here:

The bill had bipartisan support in both chambers and passed the House 99-4 and 67-0 in the Senate. The number of members attending the sessions and voting on the bill were limited, including a few members who have self-quarantined after coming into contact with another individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature. 

At the Federal Level
A deal was reached yesterday morning on the third and largest COVID-19 aid bill – CARES Act. A stimulus package designed to help the ailing economy and ease the burden on families and workers, this $2 trillion bill is unprecedented in its size and breadth. The bill passed the Senate and is up for a vote in the House tomorrow.

Among a host of other priorities, this bill commits over $7 billion to economic and development, largely in the form of CDBG funding, $477 billion to the Small Business Administration, and a series of tax credits for businesses to ease the burden of keeping staff on payroll.

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) published additional implementation guidance pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The new guidance includes two posters – one for federal workers and one for all other employees – that will fulfill notice requirements for employers obligated to inform employees about their rights under the new law. In addition, the WHD released a questions and answers document about posting requirements, as well as a Field Assistance Bulletin describing WHD’s 30-day non-enforcement policy.
As a reminder, the WHD published its first round of FFCRA implementation guidance on March 24 th :

Please know that if you can’t find your way through the influx of information available , you can reach out to our Rapid Response Team for individualized guidance. We are here for you. The East Team’s Rapid Response Team, and all our partners, are accessible via Ramsey County’s COVID-19 contact list and inquiries page .

Please visit our COVID-19 web page and Ramsey County Means Business page for information and critical resources and our Events page for the listing of webinars happening all across the community. We are posting all that we know, to make it available to you.

Be well !

B Kyle
Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce