Situation Report COVID-19 Updates | May 1, 2020
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling weary today. A little anxious. I’m not sure if it’s too much stress over work or not enough people time? I miss you, that much I do know. We’ve been locked down for weeks now. Hard to believe it was March 6 that Minnesota had its first case. Steve Grove, Commissioner of DEED, said it best: “The progress Minnesota has made in the past month has been on the backs of Minnesota’s small businesses.” And we all feel that burden with you.
If any of you are feeling similarly burdened, I hope you too are cheered to see this recent twitter post: my hat is off to Sky Candy Studios, who captured a moment in time – and our cities – so beautifully. Eerily quiet, to be sure, but I had to share it!
Let’s get to our updates:
SHOUT-OUTS, #BusinessDoingGood
  • Here’s an opportunity for YOU to do good! The Saint Paul Downtown Alliance is asking for your help to clean up our shared downtown community! With appropriate social distancing measure in place, May 7 is Downtown Clean Up Day! 

  • #GiveAtHomeMN runs May 1-8, a weeklong virtual fundraising campaign. This year you can Pay It Forward with more impact than ever through n GiveMN.orgWant to support COVID-19 work in particular? Browse this list of organizations who mention COVID-19 on their pages.

  • Bremer Bank is stepping up to serve! For their customers, they are reducing or suspending mortgage loan payments, as well as offering loan deferrals, low interest cashflow assistance loans, and additional hardship assistance. For the community, they participate in the United Way employee giving program. As a PPP loan provider, they have approved more than 2,500 applications, translating to $1.3 billion in loans and 146,000 paychecks protected.

  • Comcast is extending its COVID-19 Response benefits to June 30: no disconnects or late fees, opening business hot spots, Xfinity WiFi free for everyone, pausing data plans, and continuing Internet Essentials free. See details here.

  • Minnesota is really feeling the benefit of having so many strong companies in our state. Last week the Governor announced an economic council (Critical Care Supply Working Group) to help the state stockpile essential equipment and devices. Global logistics giant C.H. Robinson is committing its customs expertise to help Minnesota import PPE. 3M is producing N95 masks at record pace, and ferreting out fraudulent suppliers/products. Target helped develop a web-based tool to help businesses track health of workforce, and is providing touchless thermometers at cost (mentioned in Wednesday’s Sit Rep, with links). Donaldson and Ecolab are contributing their supply chain expertise. Other strong contributors include Toro, Polaris, Patterson Cos, and – of course – Mayo Clinic. Corporate involvement is pivotal because they understand and run global supply chains with international companies. They know how to do this, and the Governor is wise enough to ask for help. Fabulous.
  • Another SPACC member, Mississippi Market has made a check donation to The Sheridan Story to help support our efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Governor’s media briefings, Thursday and Friday:
  • On Fri, May 1, the briefing was largely focused on the situation within the long term care facilities in the state. Of the facilities in the state, 244 have at least one case. More than half have 1 or 2 cases. Twenty-one facilities have 20 cases or more, and one has over 157 cases. Note that some have not yet tested all clients, so numbers may be artificially low.

  • That said, all customer-facing retail establishments are eligible for curbside (or skyway!) delivery/pick-up, starting May 4. That translates to between 10-15K retail businesses – provided they have a plan. Guidelines for reopening can be found HERE. This could translate to another 30,000 people back to work.

  • Retail touches 1 in 4 jobs in Minnesota, and it’s no secret that retail has been hit hard by COVID-19. It’s worth noting that the phased-in approach to reopening has the support of several major retail associations. Among them, Bruce Nustad, president of the MN Retailers Association, worked with the Walz administration to reach Thursday’s announcement, and is in support of the current approach. Ultimately, “the consumer has to want to come back, and to come back they need to feel safe.”

  • Cautionary reminder: The Governor believes that the “dials” of loosening restrictions can start to turn now, and if the state shows progress he will continue to turn the dials. He also issued a warning about how quickly the virus can spread. Recently, in southwestern Minnesota, cases went from zero positive tests in Nobles County to over 700 positive tests in 10 days (these numbers approach the infection rate found in New York City).

  • In partnership with health care delivery systems, the Mayo Clinic, and the U of M, the state is ramping up efforts to provide capacity to deliver 20,000 molecular and 15,000 serology tests per day. On April 29 alone, we tested over 3,200 people – 400 more than our previous record. As a reminder, testing sites can be found here.
Adjusting the Dial, as of 4/30:

  • The Governor also is reviewing how to lift the ban on elective surgeries and medical procedures sometime in May. The Administration is seeking feedback from interested parties – see link here. This includes dental, veterinarian, and various other procedures. The Governor explained that the original order halting elective surgeries was done at the request of the hospitals, to assist in the preservation of limited PPE supplies. Lifting the ban will be done in coordination with the hospitals as well. As of April 30, the M Health system is starting to add back “essential elective surgeries.”

  • DEED SBEL funds: $30M fund to assist business. To date, 660 loans totaling about $20M has been disbursed. Lenders are still working through applications they have received. Still far more applications than funding.

  • Unemployment Insurance: in last 6 weeks, DEED has processed over 580K new claims. The per-week number has been dropping steadily in April, to fewer than 30K claims/week now. Largest sectors impacted is food prep and services, with almost 100K claims in that sector alone.

  • Insurance: the state is hearing from businesses that liability insurance will not over them if a customer gets COVID-19 and the infection can be traced back to the business. No guidance yet about any state/federal protections.
  • In the Legislature:
  • On April 30, the Senate passed the Coronavirus Economic Recovery Act (40 to 27 vote), emphasizing 3 elements: liquidity to preserve cash flow, stability to give businesses some level of confidence moving forward; and recovery aid. In addition, the bill provides for full conformity with Section 179 to help small businesses and farmers invest in their MN operations. 
  • The House is planning to hear their tax in committee late next week. 
  • I’m hearing rumors that legislators are being told there will be a special session on June 12, primarily to deal with allocating federal dollars coming in to the state. May also be a Fall special session to work on budget issues.
  • Still being debated are advocacy efforts at the county level for the May 15th property tax extensions. 
  • Updates on PPP
  • On Thursday, April 30, the IRS released a publication clarifying how to handle PPP expenses on your taxes. Here is a link:  IRS Publication
  • The short summary is that the IRS has updated their rules to state that any expenses on which you use the PPP funds, will not be deductible as a business expense at the end of the year. For example, if you have $1m in payroll over the 8-week period, then that $1m will not be deductible.  
  • Be sure to talk to your CPA about these changes and determine how to best track the use of your PPP and FFCRA funds.
  • From the SBA on April 29: in this second round of funding, more than 960,000 approved PPP loans totaling nearly $90 billion have been processed via nearly 5,300 lenders have been approved. Small and medium sized lenders lead the way in this work. The average overall PPP loan size is currently less than $95,000.
  • In Ramsey County:
  • Ramsey County is building out a Small Business Relief Fund, they hope to launch mid to late May. Program mechanics are being developed now. We’ll keep you posted on this as SPACC is working with them to develop and promote. Almost 70% in Ramsey Cty are small businesses, 10 employees or fewer. Need to support them specifically. Calling upon big business leaders to support small business in some way. Could be grant $, donating hours for technical assistance… more to come.
  • To date, 19% of the total labor force in the county has applied for unemployment and the county is working to create supports that reach the unconnected job seekers and those most disproportionately impacted. It is estimated that over 30,000 low income jobs have been lost in Ramsey County (low income= $40,000 or less).
  • In Saint Paul:
  • The City is developing an economic first responders program – Pay It Forward. working with SPACC, Ramsey County, SCORE, and all our East Team partners – including culturally specific agencies, the program is intended to match professionals with the smallest of companies who still need technical assistance in HR, stimulus funds applications, return to work compliance, and other topics. Language translation support will be included. More to come on this as well.
  • What to expect next week?
  • Guidance from the Governor on Monday about elective health care procedures
  • More questions about the MDH model and updates on testing
  • The budget forecast on Tuesday at 2pm
COVID-19 update as of 5/1/2020
Confirmed cases in Minnesota: from 4,644 to 5,730
Confirmed cases in U.S. (as of 4/30): over 1.1M
Confirmed cases globally (as of 4/30): over 3.2M
Cases requiring hospitalization: from 950 to 1,096
#s currently hospitalized: from 320 to 369
#s no longer needing to be isolated: from 2,043 to 2,282
#s tested: from 66,744 to 74,829
Total deaths in Minnesota : from 319 to 371
Total deaths in U.S. (updated 4/30): over 61,000
Total deaths globally (updated 4/30): over 228,000
Counties represented:
Hennepin County: from 1,633 to 1,829
Ramsey County: from 322 to 405
Dakota County: from 157 to 171
Washington County: from 120 to 133
The interactive Minnesota COVID-19 Public Dashboard can be found  here

SBA Training next week:

Hosted by Entrepreneur Fund

Creating Your Online Community | May 6 | Hosted by SCORE

Visit our e vents page for webinars and events, our COVID-19 Resource page and the Ramsey County Means Business page for information to help businesses navigate resources during this pandemic. If you need more personalized assistance, contact our Rapid Response Team to assist you in finding an answer.

Have a great weekend and be well!

B Kyle
Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce