Situation Report COVID-19 Updates | August 27/31, 2020
We were blessed with a beautiful weekend… and school starts next week!
 
Over the weekend it was announced that Minnesota gets federal approval for additional $300 weekly unemployment benefits. The good news: if you already are receiving unemployment benefits, you don’t need to do anything new or different. DEED’s Unemployment Insurance Department will review all payment requests made the week of July 26 going forward, and automatically pay applicants who are eligible.
 
Ready for the next Special Session? If you remember, earlier in August Governor Walz signed an EO extending the state’s peacetime emergency through September 11 (initially declared on March 16). More to come, but we can expect another Special Session soon to extend another month.
 
Last Wednesday, August 26, was Women’s Equality Day and 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. This is a hallmark moment in history, though this amendment did not grant all women the right to vote, specifically women of color. Indeed, most Black women would wait nearly 5 decades more to actually exercise that right.

Please take the time to learn more! To commemorate this historic centennial, the Women's Business Development Center, in collaboration with Target, is launching ‘Raising Up The Vote’ , a virtual nonpartisan campaign designed to increase awareness and drive action around the long-lasting impact voting has on communities now and into the future.
The campaign is 11-weeks long, launched on 8/26 and will continue up until election day in November. As part of the campaign they have created a podcast series called ‘Make Your Mark’, which will launch on 9/21. Also, as part of the campaign landing page they have a link to a curated resource page for resources related to voting, gender and racial equality and all things civic engagement related.

Ultimately, it is proof that women have triumphed in difficult circumstances before and we can again. We need that reminder now more than ever amid a sobering avalanche of news in recent weeks about the impact of the pandemic on working women. Study after study is now confirming what many of us already know and feel – while juggling work and childcare responsibilities is tough on all parents, women are bearing the greatest share of this increased COVID-19 related load.

How are women doing in leadership? One report found that there are 9.1 million women-owned businesses across the U.S. that employ 7.9 million people. These businesses generate a total of $1.4 trillion in sales, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners.

The latest Fortune 500 list reveals that 37 companies (7.4%) have female CEOs, an increase from 33 in 2019. Seven of the 37 women lead Fortune 100 companies. While the 2020 Fortune 500 list has the highest number of female CEOs in history, only three of the CEOs included on the list are women of color and there are no Black or Latina women represented, a decline from 2019. This data illustrates the lack of diversity among the percentage of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list and highlights the work that still needs to be done to increase gender and racial diversity at the highest-levels of the business community.

We are a work in progress people, and it requires great intentionality to diversify our leadership. We are better for it!

BUSINESS ASSISTANCE FUNDS

The application for We  St. Paul/Midway fund remains live. Please apply, and share with any businesses you know were impacted by the civil unrest: See application here.

BizRecycling Relief GrantsAny business that has been negatively impacted by the social unrest or COVID-19 is eligible for funding that can cover various items. The grant application process is extremely easy and can be completed online. If you have any questions about the program, please feel free to reach out to Jon Klapperich at JKlapperich@mnchamber.com.



For a complete list, the Minnesota Chamber is providing statewide database re local COVID funding programs available. Go to www.mnchamber.com/blog/local-covid-19-resource-database
 

#BusinessDoingGood
  • Xcel Energy sends nearly 250 employees and contractors to help with Hurricane Laura power restoration efforts:  Xcel Energy is sending employee and contracting crews to areas hit hard by Hurricane Laura to help restore power to the 670,000 customers currently without electricity following the devastating storm. About 250 Xcel Energy employees and contractors from Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Wisconsin left for Louisiana this week… Xcel Energy crews are expected to begin work this weekend and while their exact locations are still to be determined, power restoration efforts are expected to last at least a couple of weeks.

  • Allianz Life gives $2 million to Twin Cities nonprofits From the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, August 25: Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America on Tuesday pledged $2 million in grants to nonprofits in the Twin Cities with the goal of helping address inequities in the community, specifically people of color, seniors and youth.  Follow the link for the list (and, yes, our We  St. Paul/Midway fund is included. Way to go, Allianz!
 
#BackToBusiness
  • Our own St. Paul Grill is introducing ‘The Grill Experience’ Through October 30, the St. Paul Grill is offering private dining experiences devoted to you and your guests, with a dedicated chef, bartender, and server. Imagine a memorable, immersive event where private dining has been reimagined! Along with it comes special room rates for your overnight guests. The We  St. Paul/Midway fund will receive a donation for each evening booked to help small businesses and nonprofits to rebuild their storefronts, reopen their businesses, and serve our neighborhoods. Please contact Leslie Ingiald to reserve your St. Paul Grill Experience. 

  • Museums reopening – what to expect Downtown Saint Paul is known for being home to some of the best cultural amenities and visitor destinations in the state, which made it all the more difficult for these institutions to close their doors this spring. However, in the past few weeks several have begun to safely reopen. Things will look a little difference for some time though, so here's what you can expect.

  • Science Museum of Minnesota - The museum, Omnitheather, Java Lab coffee shop and Explore Store have reopened. While the coffee shop and gift store are open to the general public, advance ticket reservations are required for museum entry. All payments must be electronic and mask wearing and social distancing are required at all times. Click the link to see additional information.

  • Children's Museum of Minnesota - Advance reservations are required to visit the museum to ensure all visitors have a safe and enjoyable visit. Exhibits are undergoing additional cleaning and sanitizing. Masks are required for visitors over five years old and strong encouraged for kids aged two to four.
 
  • Your St. Paul Saints return to CHS Field and the 9/1 theme is “I need to speak to your manager! Ok, Karen.” Gotta love ‘em…. Buy Tickets

  • Vikings will open at home sans fans From MPR, August 25: The team had hoped to have about 20 percent of the stadium’s 66,000 seats full, but health officials wouldn’t approve the plan, according to Vikings vice president Lester Bagley. He said about 20 of the NFL’s 32 teams are also forgoing fans, at least for the start of the season

UPDATES FROM THE ADMINISTRATION
Monday, August 31, Commissioner Malcolm
  • Median age remains 36.0 yo.
  • 7-day average positivity rate is now up to 5.2% (reflecting the week of 8/22), up from 4.9% last week. As a reminder, state targets keeping this number under 15%, with an “immediate warning” risk level of over 5%. Our lowest was 3% in mid-June, highest was over 15% in late April.
  • For the first time, positivity rate of cases is increasing at a faster rate than testing. Last week we saw a 7.6% increase in total # of tests, and a 7.9% increase in positive cases week over week.
  • People ages 20-24 continue to grow as the age group with the largest number of cases, with 9,166 confirmed positive tests, well above the next-largest group of 7,258 cases among people ages 25-29..
  • In MN, the growing positivity rate is largely connected to community transmission. Commissioner Malcolm is urging Minnesotans to take personal responsibility to reduce your risk of transmission.
  • Dr. Debra Birx, with the White House COVID-19 Taskforce, visited recently. Expressed her concern about Minnesota’s high level of community transmission. As the weather cools and we move indoors, that risk increases.
  • MDH COVID-19 briefing: 46 Minnesota infections linked to Sturgis rally, cluster outbreaks on the rise 

Confirmed cases in Minnesota: 75,864
% Positives, last 7 days (representing week o 8/22): 5.2% (up from 4.9% last week)
Confirmed cases in U.S.: over 6M
Confirmed cases globally: over 25.3M
Cases requiring hospitalization: 6,480 (representing 8.5% of total)
#s currently hospitalized: 306 (up from 305 on 8/27)
#s no longer needing to be isolated: 67,656
#s tested: 1,489,726
Total deaths in Minnesota: 1,817 (1,339/73.7% cases in long term care or assisted living facilities)
Total deaths in U.S.: over 183K
Total deaths globally: almost 848K
Cases in Counties represented:
Hennepin County: 23,134 (879 deaths)
Ramsey County: 9,203 (298 deaths)
Dakota County: 5,936 (110 deaths)
Washington County: 2,996 (54 deaths)

Resources
 
In the News:

  • Have you utilized the state's shared-work program? Star Tribune Business reporter Jackie Crosby is working on a story this week about the state’s shared-work program, which encourages businesses to avoid layoffs by temporarily allowing employees to dial back hours and collect unemployment insurance to make up the difference. Also called “short-time compensation” programs. Jackie is looking for companies to interview for this and hopes to get her story written by Thursday. If you’ve taken advantage of this program, please contact her as soon as possible at jackie.crosby@startribune.com or 612-209-3911.

  • Hormel offers two-year college benefit to employees' children From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 25: Hormel Foods Corp. announced Tuesday that it will pay the tuition of a two-year college for any of its employees’ children, reflecting a growing awareness among major U.S. corporations of the role they can play in addressing systemic racial and economic inequality.

  • Why Minnesota-based Sun Country is 'outperforming' rest of airline industry From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 29: Decisions made in March, such as flying Cargo for Amazon, are paying off… That’s when a few business decisions made just before COVID-19 gripped the country proved fortunate for the scrappy, Minnesota-based airline. It took back control of ground operations and employment at its main hub, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. And a new contract to fly Amazon Air, sometimes called Prime Air, cargo operations for the giant e-commerce company began in May.
 
  • Allina, Blue Cross deal ties payments to outcomes, not procedures From the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, August 27: In a major shift in how a health insurer pays for medical services, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will start paying Allina Health System for patient outcomes instead of individual medical services. "It's a big deal," Allina CEO Dr. Penny Wheeler said of the "value-based payment" agreement, announced Thursday. The agreement is expected to impact 130,000 people who have Blue Cross insurance and get care at Allina.

  • July construction starts decline sharply in the Twin Cities From the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, August 28: New construction projects in the Twin Cities metro took a nose dive in July. The total value of metro construction permits issued in July 2020 was $467 million, down 47% from July 2019, when the value was $890 million, according to Dodge Data & Analytics of Hamilton, N.J. The poor report comes a month after the construction industry posted a more stable June, with the value of new projects down only 3% after a couple months of steep declines.
 
  • Minnesota gets federal approval for additional $300 weekly unemployment benefits From the St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 29: Those currently receiving unemployment benefits do not need to reapply or do anything other than complete their weekly benefits request to receive the additional $300 a week. DEED Unemployment Insurance will review all payment requests made for the week of July 26 going forward and automatically pay applicants who are eligible. Minnesota has paid a total of roughly $7 billion in unemployment insurance since the pandemic began, some of which it had to borrow after depleting the state unemployment trust fund.
 
  • SBA updates PPP guidance for owner-employees. From the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, August 27: New guidance from the Small Business Administration changes the compensation limits for certain Paycheck Protection Program borrowers who are considered owner-employees.

  • Apply for $1.5B in Federal CARES Act Funds As of August 12, organizations in our region are eligible to apply for millions of dollars in available federal CARES Act funding to help us respond to the economic challenges from COVID19. This new opportunity is the result of a collaboration among GREATER MSP, the Center for Economic Inclusion, and the Metropolitan Council. This week, Peter talks with partners Tawanna Black, Founder & CEO of the Center for Economic Inclusion and Charlie Zelle, Chair of the Metropolitan Council about how this funding can help organizations across the region respond to COVID19, and build a more racially equitable economy.  Watch Video

  • US Department of Labor: New FFCRA Guidance re School Re-openings Since the start of school season, US DOL has received a lot of questions related to how individual school re-opening models impact the rights of employees to take leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). We think this new guidance will answer a lot of questions that many folks were asking. So please share these FAQs broadly and however you see fit.
 
  • Minnesota unemployment claims have dropped faster in August than in any period since the pandemic began From MINNPOST, August 27: The number of Minnesotans on unemployment has dropped faster in recent weeks than it has in any period since the pandemic began. In the last week of July and first week of August, continued claims — which represent the number of people currently claiming unemployment benefits in Minnesota — dropped by 12 percent. New unemployment applications have also been on the decline in recent weeks.

  • Hillcrest Golf Course Master Plan InputThe City of St. Paul and the St. Paul Port Authority are seeking broad community input on the 4 scenarios being reviewed at Hillcrest. PLEASE, if you are a stakeholder, an interested party, take the time to weigh in on the importance of economic development, jobs, and hitting the 1,000 jobs goal for the site.  https://www.stpaul.gov/hillcrest

  • Izzy’s Ice Cream closing final retail location as focus shifts to online, supermarket sales From the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, August 26: Over the course of two decades, Minneapolis-based Izzy’s Ice Cream built its reputation around its retail experience. For the company to survive the pandemic, that experience has to go away. Izzy’s announced Tuesday that it will close its remaining scoop shop on Aug. 31. The Minneapolis Mill District location on the edge of Gold Medal Park also served as the company’s headquarters. That means a shift in focus to pint sales in grocery market freezers and online orders. The company introduced nationwide shipping of 14-oz. ice cream “tall cups” this summer.

  • Hormel reports record sales, rocky supply chain From the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, August 25: Hormel Foods Corp. reported record net sales and better-than-expected profits for its fiscal third quarter on Tuesday, but noted increasing costs related to supply shortages and efforts to keep Covid-19 in check at manufacturing facilities.
 
  • Best Buy business surges in Q2; online sales triple From the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, August 25: In a statement, CEO Corie Barry said, "Trends across most categories and services improved materially throughout Q2 as we opened our stores more broadly for shopping, especially categories like large appliances and home theater that benefit from more experiential shopping."

  • New federal virus testing advice sparks criticism, confusion From the St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 26: NEW YORK — U.S. health officials sparked criticism and confusion after posting guidelines on coronavirus testing from the White House task force that run counter to what scientists say is necessary to control the pandemic. The new guidance says it’s not necessary for people who have been in close contact with infected people, but don’t feel sick, to get tested. It was posted earlier this week on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC previously had advised local health departments to test people who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes.
 
  • Pandemic changes the office workers once knew From the St. Paul Pioneer Press/Associated Press, August 26: Face masks in public spaces, alternating office days, questionnaires on health status – workers sent home when the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March are facing major adjustments as they slowly return to a changed office environment. 

 
  • Coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affecting female-owned small businesses, according to a new U.S. Chamber poll From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, August 26: Female-owned small businesses have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic and corresponding economic crisis, and they are now less likely to expect future revenue, investment and staffing growth, according to data released today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Female-owned small businesses are more likely than male-owned small businesses to report a significant decline in the overall health of their business since the start of the pandemic and less likely to report that they have added staff, according to the poll. Female-owned small businesses also lag behind when assessing investment plans, revenue projections and staffing plans for the coming year, evidence that they do not anticipate recovering as quickly as their male counterparts. 
 
  • Walz announces plan for COVID-19 saliva testing lab in Minnesota, could process another 30,000 tests per day From 5 Eyewitness News, KSTP, August 25: Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz announced plans for a COVID-19 saliva testing lab in Minnesota. Walz said the state is working to finalize a $14.66 million contract with Vault Health and RUCDR Infinite Biologics. The new lab would help expand and diversify testing capacity in Minnesota with the goal of slowing the spread of COVID-19. "Testing alone does not suppress COVID-19," Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm noted during a call Tuesday with reporters, still urging the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, practicing good hygiene and follow health guidelines. The testing will not replace nasal testing, as both are expected to be working together to help improve overall testing capacity. 
 
  • Video was important. Now it’s key. From Goff Public, August 25: The competition for your audience’s time is fierce. Never before have there been as many messages or mediums used to engage consumers. To successfully communicate in today’s landscape, you must think of new ways to engage your audience through the powerful and growing medium of digital video. Currently, many consider video a great tool when time and budget allow. This should no longer be the case. Learn the 3 primary reasons video has become one of the most effective storytelling methods for organizations.
 
 
  • B20 Global Dialogue: Why digital transformation is needed for economic resilience post-COVID-19 and beyond From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, August 20: Realizing the benefits of digital technology in the workplace and as part of education and training, organizations are reforming the way we work and learn. While these developments will undoubtedly represent a major challenge for workers in the form of upskilling and closing the digital divide, they will also unlock new opportunities for economic growth on a global scale and in markets that thus far have been stagnant. Looking at the initial impact on jobs is only half the story – the same way the industrial revolution pushed us to rethink our economies and ways of working, the digital revolution will enable us to reimagine connectivity and growth. 
 
 
  • U.S. Chamber launches new campaign to bolster, strengthen support for employer-sponsored health coverage From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, August 13: Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced the launch of Protecting Americans’ Coverage Together (PACT), a campaign aimed at strengthening support for the private health coverage that millions of Americans rely on for their health, while raising awareness around the serious threats posed by a Medicare buy-in or public option. PACT will elevate the voices of employers and employees around meaningful reforms that would reinforce the benefits of the current employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) system rather than resorting to highly disruptive changes that would undermine health care coverage for millions of Americans and their families.

  • U.S. Chamber launches “Cost of Inaction” Campaign, illuminating the burden on Americans as a result of the impasse over additional Coronavirus aid From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, August 18: “The inability of Congress and the administration to reach a compromise has a very real and very large human cost,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “For schools and businesses to get the resources they need to safely reopen, for small businesses to keep their doors open, and for those that have lost their jobs to continue to provide for their families, Congress must act. There is no excuse for inaction.” To launch the campaign, the Chamber is focusing first on the costs associated with safely reopening K-12 schools across the country. In the coming days, the campaign will illustrate how individuals and various industries are being impacted by Congress' inability to reach a compromise.


Thanks for making all the way to the bottom of this one! Lots of news to share, so it was a long one! 
 
Be safe and be well,

B

B Kyle
President/CEO
Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce