Situation Report COVID-19 Updates | May 6, 2020
Today is kick-off for National Nurses Week and we are in the middle of Teacher Appreciation Week. It’s always helpful to get out of our own situation and reach out to serve someone else. No better time than today to thank a nurse or teacher. They serve us, every day, and shape our future. My own shout-out goes to Millie Hemmelgarn, my English teacher at Woodbury High School. A long time ago, I know, but she stays with me. She wasn’t cool, not by any stretch, but she was both kind and vigorous, with a biting wit and a generous intelligence that invited you in. She saw me, became my friend. She remains a lifelong role model for me. Thanks Millie!
SHOUT-OUTS, #BusinessDoingGood

  • As of 5/5, we are midway through the #GiveAtHomeMN campaign. $1.7 million has been given thus far to 1,800+ organizations. And Friday was the single biggest day of giving on outside of Give to the Max…ever! It runs through May 9. Find an organization you believe in, and give!

  • Saint Paul’s Neighborhood Network (SPNN): in partnership with TPT, providing translations of their Almanac programs. That information is available in Spanish, Somali, Hmong, and American Sign Language. We helped produce those videos in SPNN’s studio. We’re also working with TPT and some of our peer media centers to provide real-time translations of Governor Walz’s addresses. This is a vital service - making sure that all of our friends and neighbors have access to reliable COVID-19 information in a language they understand. You can see that work here and you can read more about it here and here.

  • The Sanneh Foundation regular operations are on hold; they are realigning its resources in support of our community: partnering with local public agencies and food security organizations to provide meals and fresh produce to over 250 families a day at the Conway Community Center. Also supporting local food shelves to fill operating gaps on-site.

Share your feedback with the Fed - Please take this  5-minute survey   to help the Minneapolis Fed better understand business conditions at this critically important time. These anonymous responses will help the Minneapolis Fed better understand the outbreak’s impact on individual businesses as well as local economies. The Federal Reserve System will use this information to shape monetary policy to help businesses weather this economic shock. I f you receive this survey link from multiple sources, please respond only once.
Today’s Updates
  • EO 20-51, issued 5/5, allowing for elective medical, dental, and veterinary procedures.
  • EO 20-50, issued 5/4, ensuring protection against consumer garnishment of COVID-19 relief funds
  • EO 20-49, issued 5/1, allowing commercial food trucks to operate ag highway rest areas during COVID-19 peacetime emergency
Governor’s 2pm Media Briefings
Wednesday briefing, 5/6
  • Commissioner Malcolm provided updates on cases to date and acknowledged the disproportionate impact on professionals of color, Native Americans, and those with underlying health conditions. They are working to further break down the data on those impacted.

  • Commissioner of Administration, Alice Roberts-Davis, spoke about the Critical Care Supplies Workgroup. Based on current use, we now have a 1-3 month supply of PPE. 

  • Questions from the media focused on PPE supplies and the availability of serology tests. The state has an ongoing partnership with the UofM and Mayo, who are on the leading edge of serology testing. We will know soon “when serology will be useful.”

  • Question from the media about Stearns County, now with 975 positive cases and 3 deaths. Per Commissioner Malcolm, the increase of cases in that county is related to the plants and cases associated with those workplaces. We had a call on Monday evening with local public health and community leaders and state agencies, discussing the ongoing outreach we can do. Also included the Somali community, strongly represented there.

Tuesday briefing, 5/5
  • EO 20-51 announced. Beginning next week, doctors, dentists, and veterinarians will be allowed to resume many currently delayed procedures once their facilities develop criteria to determine which procedures should proceed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Providers must also have a plan in place to maintain a safe environment for staff, patients, and visitors.

  • Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) unveiled its “May 2020 Interim Budget Projection,” predicting a $2.426 billion deficit (before the use of the budget reserve) for the 2020-21 biennium. The deficit comes from $3.6 billion in lower revenue and $391 million in higher spending (compared with the $1.5 billion surplus predicted in February). This represents a nearly $4 billion swing caused by shrinking tax revenues and growing emergency COVID spending. *Notably the state still holds $2.36 billion in reserves and $350 million in its cashflow account which, together, erase the deficit if utilized.

  • Cautioned against solely using the budget reserve to close the gap. Depleting these funds in the current situation is difficult because we know revenues will continue to decline in the remaining 14 months, and there are many factors with a high degree of uncertainty about today’s budget projection. Have also decided to wait for additional information before addressing the next biennium.

  • Minnesota has already received $2.18B in federal dollars from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, in addition to program specific funds of over $1B.

  • Good news is that Minnesota has managed its state budgets well. The reserve is at the highest level in the state’s history. The state has entered this crisis with some good tools.

  • Concluded by reminding policymakers in the Legislature that we do not need to solve all of the state’s budget problems by May 18th. Both the economic and pandemic situations are constantly changing, and likely that the budget will need to be adjusted several times throughout the course of the remaining months of the biennium. Need to be targeted and strategic in response.

  • Strong message: the worst is not over. As a nation, our peak is still coming. Updated estimates put the peak at end of 2Q, with recovery taking the balance of the year and even into 2021.

  • The state’s supply of PPE and ventilator capacity has improved, warranting additional re-opening of the economy and the issuance of EO 20-51. Definitely is a “balanced risk.”
Earlier This Week
  • Gov Chief of Staff Chris Schmitter – we are trying to walk a fine line to balance the need to respond to and manage public health, with the fact that the response is having a devastating effect on jobs and income. We have the dial mechanism that the Governor is turning as this pandemic evolves. We have extended the Stay At Home order until May 18, and we are tracking the progress we are making in terms of testing and tracing, seeing how some re-opening is working, and then making a decision in the next week or so about what to do beyond May 18. Middle of next week is when we’ll hear about what will come beyond May 18.
  • MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm – a big factor in revising the order on elective procedures is that people were not getting other kinds of care they need, so we wanted to adjust this. PPE conservation continues to be very important, and we will leave it to the providers to determine how much volume they can do on elective surgeries while still conserving PPE for a surge in COVID. COVID deaths worldwide now have surpassed all the deaths from the Vietnam War. On our dashboard on the website, you will see a steepening of the curve – we are going up the curve. These numbers are driven by outbreaks in five counties with food processing plants – this is about 30% of the cumulative total in Minnesota. We are working hard with companies and communities on this. The speed of the spread in these settings is significant. Also important to note we only report certified COVID deaths, not possible or probable deaths related to COVID. Testing volume over the last week is increasing.
  • DEED Commissioner Steve Grove – we have about 8% of the economy that can’t get back to work right now. Talking to yoga studios, gyms, salons, etc, and getting great feedback on how to open and get this right. Business owners know that customers want to feel safe when they go into a store or business, and they’re working hard to get this right. We want to offer careful guidance formulated with businesses, which then becomes sort-of a checklist for the business. We are asking them to post a plan and inform customers about how activities can take place in a safe manner. Also looking to share best practices between businesses – Target has a good “playbook” they developed that we can share with people. We want the business community to lead on this and we are following. That said, “it’s important to remember that we believe that, wherever you can work from home, you should work from home. That critical guidance remains the same.”
  • Unemployment Insurance update – with people going back to work we are getting a lot of questions. COVID-related unemployment (for various reasons) makes you eligible for UI, and this remains the case even as opportunities to get back into the workplace come back online. (per the Governor on 5/5: Based on current projections, the UI fund is stable through October. For context, IL is stable for 30 days. Minnesota is well positioned financially to support our unemployed.)
  • MMB Commissioner Myron Frans –Estimated US GDP “growth” for 2020 will be -7% projected, so that’s quite a turnaround from where we were. Federal CARES Act was $2.3 trillion for different distribution in the US, this was helpful and MN got a little over $2B, but Moody’s has an advisory saying they put the public sector on a negative outlook overall. One thing that could turn this around would be a vaccine. Another stimulus package from feds also could help. Session ends on May 18, so we wanted to give the Governor and Legislature the best info right now so they have several days to react before the end. Projection goes to June 30, 2021 – we have a chart that shows an incredible dip and drop in 2nd quarter of this year. In the recovery projection, it never goes back to what we had projected early in 2020 for the balance of this year. All taxes are now down. Sales tax alone is going down 10-15% just for the last 6-8 weeks.

  • We have a budget reserve of $2.35 billion, and circumstances like this are exactly why we have this. We commend Governors Dayton and Walz for prioritizing this. We are looking at ways to deploy this to help people. We try to budget for 4 years, not just the 2 we are in, and our significant reserve puts us in a much better position than many other states right now. Looking at revenues from various sources including the federal government – trying to figure out best uses for those. Unallotment process – this is a tool the Governor has, but before he can use it all of the budget reserve has to be used up. “Unallotment” means the Governor reduces or suspends spending in various agencies and areas. We have to explain to the public how we do this. We don’t have to fix all these things by May 18th, in part because we don’t know what’s going to happen. The economic environment is so fluid.
  • Update on DEED’s Small Business Emergency Loan Program: DEED shared numbers on loans provided under the State’s Small Business Emergency Loan Program. As of 5/5, 728 loans have been approved, totalling $21,926,190. Of those, an estimated 1/3 (230 loans) of those loans were through cultural organizations.
  • In the 7-county metro: 344 loans totaling $11.1M.
  • In Saint Paul and Minneapolis specifically: 174 loans totaling $5.5M.
  • SBEL activity by lender in the metro
  • MEDA: 83 loans for $2.6M
  • Entrepreneur Fund: 78 loans for $2.1M
  • NDC:  48 loans for $1.3M
  • WomenVenture: 37 loans for $857K
  • MCCD: 32 loans for $912K
  • NEON: 15 loans for $453K
  • Hmong American Partnership (HAP): 7 loans for $144K
  • What if you don’t want to go back to the office? From the Pioneer Press: A Gallup poll found a majority of U.S. adults working from home would prefer to continue doing so “as much as possible” after the pandemic.
  • The ongoing question: Can I still collect unemployment if I refuse to return to an unsafe workplace? From MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE: "If you have a health reason or care taking responsibility, then you should stay home and you would likely continue to qualify for unemployment," DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said in a statement. "But if you are an able-bodied and otherwise healthy worker, unemployment insurance isn't able to pay you if you desire to stay home." 
In Congress
  • Senators Amy Klobuchar and Brian Schatz are preparing a yet-to-be-introduced bill giving the Treasury Department authority to distribute block grants to more than 1,000 state and local governments, which would in turn dispatch those grants to nonprofits. Their bill intends to help nonprofits with more than 500 employees, which were largely left out of previous coronavirus aid efforts. Other versions would allow grants for such organizations of any size… In the House, there is at least one bipartisan bill to help large nonprofits, but advocates are facing resistance from other members who say their priority is businesses that want new protections from liability lawsuits related to the pandemic. The goal of the Klobuchar-Schatz plan is to prevent nonprofits, which are facing declining donations just as demand for their services is skyrocketing, from having to lay off more of their own workers. The grants would cover wages of up to $50,000 for each nonprofit employee and also help unemployed people match up with nonprofits in need of more workers.
In the State Legislature
  • With less than two weeks before it’s required to adjourn, the Minnesota Legislature is starting to see what the end of the 2020 session may look like. Of concern is the legislative role in spending federal funds and collective bargaining issues. A bonding bill continues to be on both parties’ agendas, though Governor Walz’s original $2.6B proposal seems unlikely.
  • Expect one of the major pieces of legislation in the next few weeks to be a bill related to liability issues for products, business, health care companies, property owners, and the government related to COVID-19. An early draft of the bill lays out exemptions for healthcare providers and essential businesses, and extends to “personal protective equipment” provided during the pandemic. The goal is to provide protection for entities that have done the right thing for employees and customers. Since the guidance from the state and federal government is unproven, those businesses that follow it would be held harmless for following it. 
  • A moratorium on new local sales tax requests? Is part of the delete-all amendment for HF346, which is something of a mini-omnibus bill designed to become part of the larger omnibus tax bill. The bill contains several proposed changes in state tax law, some intended to create flexibility for local governments in meeting deadlines and how they use local option sales taxes… Currently, its companion is SF473 but, like the original HF346, that's likely just a vehicle bill that the Senate Taxes Committee is expected to replace with a separate property and local tax bill of its own.
COVID-19 update as of 5/6/2020
Confirmed cases in Minnesota: from 7851 to 8,579
Confirmed cases in U.S. (as of 5/6): over 1.2M
Confirmed cases globally (as of 5/6): over 3.7M
Cases requiring hospitalization: fr om 1350 to 1,405
#s currently hospitalized: from 434 to 443
#s no longer needing to be isolated: f rom 4,614 to 5,005
#s tested: from 85,941 to 93,232
Total deaths in Minnesota : from 455 to 485 (of these, 391 have occurred in LTC/assisted living facilities)
Total deaths in U.S. (updated 5/6): almost 71,000
Total deaths globally (updated 5/6): almost 261,000
Cases in Counties represented:
Hennepin County: from 2,519 to 2,764 (325 deaths)
Ramsey County: fr om 483 to 656 (38 deaths)
Dakota County: from 241 to 292 (12 deaths)
Washington County: from 162 to 181 (12 deaths)

In other news:

MnDOT is planning a significant amount of work on Robert Street and is seeking public feedback. Visit the project website and share your feedback by May 13 .
The interactive Minnesota COVID-19 Public Dashboard can be found  here
SBA Info:
Local Partner Info
DLI Worker Protections Pages
Visit our e vents page for webinars and events 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.

Be well!

B Kyle
Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce