March 29, 2021
Governor opens up vaccine eligibility to Minnesotans age 16 and up March 30
Beginning Tuesday, March 30, Minnesotans 16 years and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine under the latest announcement from Governor Walz Friday.

This is great news and comes several months ahead of the original expectation that vaccination eligibility would be wide open beginning this summer. The State continues to ask providers to prioritize those with any underlying health conditions when possible.

MnRA encourages all retail workers to get vaccinated. It's your turn!

MnRA extends a heartfelt thank you to pharmacies across the state that have done and will continue to go a tremendous job as vaccination partners.
 
"How to get your vaccine" recommendations from the State:
 
  • "Sign up for the Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Connector. The Vaccine Connector will inform you about vaccine opportunities in your area. 
  • Use the Vaccine Locator Map to find vaccine providers near you.
  • Contact your primary health care provider or a local pharmacy.
  • Vaccine Connector users may also be randomly selected to make an appointment at one of the state’s COVID-19 Community Vaccination Program sites. If you are selected, you will be notified by text, email, or phone call by one of the state vaccination partners running those sites: Vault Health, Primary Bio or SpeciaLysts (Solv). 
  • Your employer may also reach out with information about vaccination opportunities."


Average Easter spending expected to be highest on record
From the National Retail Federation, March 24, 2021

Consumers plan to spend an average of $179.70 this Easter, the highest figure on record, according to results of the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. A total of 79 percent of Americans will celebrate the holiday and spend a collective $21.6 billion, down slightly from last year's pre-pandemic forecast of $21.7 billion.

“With new stimulus funds from the President’s American Rescue Plan, positive trends in vaccinations and growing consumer confidence, there is a lot of momentum heading into the Spring and holiday events like Easter,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Many have figured out how to celebrate holidays safely with family and that is reflected in consumer spending this Easter.”Easter gifts, food and candy are the biggest drivers of growth this year. Consumers plan to spend an average of $31.06 on gifts (up from $27.91 in 2020), $52.50 on food (up from $51.76) and $25.22 on candy (up from $23.30).

As more and more individuals become vaccinated, consumers are planning to celebrate in ways they might have missed last year due to COVID-19. The newest CDC guidance on gatherings means some families might be able to plan a festive meal with vaccinated family members or take advantage of warmer weather and gather outside.

This year, consumers plan to mark the holiday by cooking a holiday meal (59 percent), visiting with family and friends (43 percent), watching TV (43 percent), planning an Easter egg hunt (31 percent) or attending church (28 percent). However, not everyone is ready to resume in-person activities, with 22 percent indicating they will attend church virtually and 24 percent saying they will connect with their loved ones by phone or video.
The federal government has found that Americans prefer vaccination at pharmacies over expensive mega-sites
From Politico, Erin Banco, March 29, 2021

The Biden administration is rethinking a costly system of government-run mass vaccination sites after data revealed the program is lagging well behind a much cheaper federal effort to distribute doses via retail pharmacies.

The government has shipped millions of doses to the 21 mass vaccination hubs, or “pilot” community centers, in states such as California, Florida, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Texas. The hubs are part of a $4 billion federal system that funds more than 1,000 smaller vaccination locations across the country and provides other vaccination support — such as supplies — to states across the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency did not respond to repeated questions about how much the pilot sites cost.

Despite the money the federal government has spent on the mass-vaccination pilot sites, they are administering just a fraction of the shots given across the country each day. Federal data show the retail pharmacy program — which has signed up 21 chains and 17,000 stores — can reach far more Americans in a shorter time, according to four senior officials with direct knowledge of the matter. The bottom line, those sources said, is that more Americans seem to be willing to walk to their local pharmacist to get the vaccine than to travel to a federal vaccination site for the shot.

That represents a shift in strategy for the Biden administration, which touted the hubs as a powerful tool to rapidly accelerate the nation’s vaccine rollout and a symbol of the president’s push to give the federal government a larger role in the pandemic response. But FEMA data obtained by POLITICO make clear that the pharmacy sites are far outpacing the stadiums, arenas and convention centers enlisted as mass vaccination sites.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says 'normalcy is on the horizon' in State of the State address
From the Star Tribune, Briana Bierschbach , March 29, 2021

One year after he warned of a long, dark winter ahead, Gov. Tim Walz told Minnesotans that "brighter days are here," as an increasing number of people are vaccinated against COVID-19, businesses start to reopen their doors and the economy slowly rebounds from the devastating toll of the pandemic.

The first-term Democrat delivered the message in his third State of the State address on Sunday from his old social studies classroom in Mankato West High School, where students have returned after a long stretch of distance learning to slow the spread of the virus. In front of a map of the world and a school flag, Walz said the setting served as a reminder of the progress the state has made over the past year of the global pandemic.

"Normalcy is on the horizon, and Minnesotans are eager to embrace the simple pleasures of life," Walz said in a roughly 20-minute speech recorded Sunday afternoon. "Whether it's that morning rush out the door to school, a warm cup of coffee with a friend, or for me, the busy chatter of a high school hallway between classes, we vow to never take them for granted again."

But he warned Minnesotans to stay vigilant as cases start to rise again, spurred in part by more infectious variants of the virus. Much like last year's address, which Walz delivered in quarantine after exposure to the virus, his speech Sunday was delayed by a week as he again went into isolation after a staffer tested positive for COVID-19. "The thaw is here," he said. "But in Minnesota we know better than to let our guard down at the first sign of spring."
Gov. Tim Walz rescinds five COVID-related executive orders
From Bring Me The News, Adam Uren, May 27, 2021

As Minnesota moves towards what it is hoped to be a return to relative normality as the COVID vaccine rollout accelerates, Governor Tim Walz has rescinded a series of executive orders he enacted in response to the outbreak of the pandemic.

On Friday evening, Walz announced he was rescinding executive orders "that are no longer needed," which includes 20-03, which saw restrictions placed on visitors to Minnesota Veterans homes.

"Now that the vast majority of residents and staff have been vaccinated, Executive Order 20-03 is no longer needed," Walz said.

"Getting the vaccine has allowed grandparents to hug grandkids again, and it has let Minnesotans get back some of the parts of life that they have had to give up,” Walz added. “For our veterans, it means they can safely visit with their loved ones. I’m excited to announce that – because the vast majority of residents and staff have been vaccinated – visitor limitations on our Veterans Homes have been safely lifted."

The others rescinded include Executive Orders 20-25, which allowed the Department of Public Safety to suspend continuing education requirements for law enforcement officers and extend the license renewal requirements for firefighters, detectives, and protective agents.

Also rescinded are orders 20-41 and 20-57, which expanded access to distance learning in schools and summer school options during the 2019-20 school year, which are no longer needed as that school year has passed.

Finally, Walz has rescinded 20-102, which amended two previous executive orders expanding access to unemployment benefits during the pandemic. The element of the order that is being rescinded gave the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development extra time to calculate "experience ratings" from employers, which the governor says is no longer necessary due to changes DEED made with the help of the Legislature.
Minnesota Chamber touts economic importance of state’s immigrants
From Twin Cities Business, By Burl Gilyard , March 23, 2021

The Minnesota Chamber Foundation is calling new attention to the importance of immigrants to the state’s economy. The foundation released a new report on Tuesday to make its case.

“The success of Minnesota’s economy, both now and in the future, is intrinsically linked to our immigrant communities,” said Laura Bordelon, senior vice president of advocacy at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “With a changing population, Minnesota needs immigrant entrepreneurs and workers. They embody the spirit of our homegrown economy and we can all do more to support their long-term success.”

Immigrants currently represent 8.5 percent of the population in Minnesota. The top four nations of birth for Minnesota’s foreign-born residents are Mexico, Somalia, India and Laos. Minnesota has the largest Somali population in the U.S. and the second largest population of people from Laos.

The immigrant population accounted for 12 percent of the residents of the core, seven-county Twin Cities metro area in 2018 — far ahead of the rest of the state.

Among the findings in the report:

  • As consumers, immigrants have $12.4 billion in spending power in Minnesota.
  • Without immigration, Minnesota’s population would have started to decline in 2001
  • Between 1990 and 2018, the state immigrant population grew by 300 percent compared to a 126 percent increase nationally
  • Immigrants in Minnesota have higher labor force participation rates than the native-born population
  • Immigrant entrepreneurship in Minnesota lags the rest of the nation
DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MARCH 31: Know an amazing retails or key business partner?
When innovative retailers and their partners gather, learn and celebrate at Retail Rally in October, we'll roll out the red carpet to recognize ten Minnesota organizations and individuals for being champions of the industry.

Help recognize the retail industry by nominating a Minnesota Retail Champion in one or more of these categories today:

  • Best Place To Work
  • Customer Experience
  • Advocate of the Year
  • Outstanding Achievement
  • Retail Community of the Year
  • Retailer of the Year
  • Retail Employee of the Year
  • Retail Innovation
  • Social Responsibility
  • Vendor Partner of the Year

Nominations are open through March 31 and are easy at www.mnretail.org/champ!
MnRA partner advertisement:
NRF says extension of Paycheck Protection Program vital to small businesses
From the National Retail Federation, March 25, 2021

The National Retail Federation today issued the following statement from President and CEO Matthew Shay following the Senate’s approval to extend the Paycheck Protection Program.

“Throughout the past year, countless small businesses have been devastated by the pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program has served as a lifeline for many retailers and other businesses across the country, ensuring they can continue to pay their employees and keep their doors open. As our economy begins to recover, extending the Paycheck Protection Program will give additional small businesses access to critical liquidity.

“While the recently enacted $1.9 trillion relief bill contains billions of dollars in spending for a variety of programs, very little of that spending is actually devoted to supporting the small businesses and other employers that are the backbone of job creation and economic activity in communities across the country. Extension of the Paycheck Protection Program is vital to ensure that small businesses can continue to drive economic activity and job creation as we recover from this pandemic.”
Minnesota’s unemployment rate dips to 4.3% in February
From tMN DEED, March 25, 2021

Minnesota’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.3% in February, down from 4.5% in January, according to numbers released today by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The decline in the unemployment rate was due to more people finding work and a decrease in the number of unemployed people, which resulted in another decline in the number of people engaged in Minnesota’s labor force.

Minnesota’s labor force participation rate fell by a tenth of a point to 67.8% in February. It was 70.2% in February 2020, immediately before the start of the pandemic. Nationally, the unemployment rate fell one-tenth to 6.2% in February, with labor force participation staying level at 61.4%.

Minnesota gained 13,900 jobs, up 0.5%, in February on a seasonally adjusted basis. This is 200 jobs short of the peak pandemic recovery employment in October 2020. The private sector gained 11,000 jobs in February, up 0.5% over the month, bringing private sector employment 300 jobs above peak pandemic employment reached in October. 

The U.S. gained 379,000 jobs, up 0.3% over the month, in February on a seasonally adjusted basis.
The deepest impacts of the pandemic are felt by Minnesotans from Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. Based on 12-month moving averages, the unemployment rate for Black Minnesotans was 9.2% in February, down from 9.5% in January and up from 4.5% one year ago. The Latinx unemployment rate was 7.5% in February up from 7.3% in January and up from 5.0% one year ago. White Minnesotans were at 5.9% in February, up from 5.8% in January and up from 3.0% one year ago.
MnRA 30 minute legislative update calls each Monday during session
For members seeking an insiders look at the legislative week, MnRA hosts a weekly 10:00 a.m. Monday conference. This members-only activity takes place each week of legislative session through its conclusion and includes opportunities for retailers to get involved in the policy making process. To obtain dial-in information for these calls contact Savannah Sepic at savannah@mnretail.org or call us at (651) 227-6631.
If you missed this webinar, catch it on YouTube now