The Senate COVID-19 Response Working Group convened a second teleconference meeting Friday, April 3, to learn more about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting Minnesota’s businesses, workers and the unemployed.

Steve Grove, Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, told the panel that eighty-five percent of applications for unemployment benefits are coming from individuals who have never before applied and that the agency is adjusting to accommodate the surge in requests. Further, he noted that recently-passed state legislation to aid small businesses is meant to bridge the gap until federal programs like the CARES Act become available.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank president Neel Kashkari compared the economic fallout of the pandemic to that of 2008’s great recession and said that state officials’ focus on health care and business resources are “the right things”.

A handful of small business owners attested to the difficulties they are facing as they shutter their companies for an undetermined length of time. Testifiers requested an extension to income and property tax payment deadlines, greater clarity for aid programs available, financial assistance for seasonal industries that will be disproportionately impacted by the closures and new exemptions from mandated closures for industries like landscaping and manufacturing where proper social-distancing protocols can be met.

The working group will reconvene Monday, April 6, at 11:30 a.m. for a discussion of potential deficits in state agency budgets.


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