It’s been a busy week. In fact, the weeks are flying by. Can you believe we are looking at July just around the corner? The latest “turn of the dial” started on Wednesday, with the allowance of outdoor youth sports scrimmages and games. Still no word on Phase 4 timing…
And grant opportunities continue. As of Tuesday evening, more than 6,000 small businesses already had applied for DEED’s Small Business Emergency Grant (SBEG) program. DEED anticipates awarding approximately 6200 $10K grants. Deadline to apply is Thursday, July 2.
New to me is Accion’s newly announced Small Business Live Restart Grant Fund for vulnerable small business owners struggling with challenges linked to COVID-19. Selected small business owners will receive a grant of $5000 to help restart their business. . Questions? Contact them or check our Frequently Asked Questions.
Finally, a reminder about the ongoing need for safety measures regarding COVID-19. We do know how to slow the spread of the virus, though it doesn’t always seem that way – and compliance is, in a word, inconvenient. That said, the New York Times shares a consistent set of lessons, from around the world, about how to reduce the number of new cases sharply.
Greetings and happy Monday. I wish it were happier for all of us in terms of the Legislature’s work on our behalf during the special session. At 6:04am on Saturday, the Minnesota Senate adjourned the special session. No agreement on a bonding bill, tax bill, police reform, allocation of federal CARES Act resources, or recovery measures for small businesses. The St. Paul Pioneer Press article, “‘Train wreck’: Minnesota lawmakers adjourn after failing to agree on major issues,” about sums it up: “none of it.”
The one piece of good news from the special session was the $62.5M Small Business Relief Grants program approved last week. Application window opens this week, and runs through 5pm on July 2. Details and links are below.
This morning Congresswoman McCollum spoke with chamber members, again offering her strong support for – and ongoing work on behalf of – the business community. Last week she walked along University Avenue speaking with business owners, and is working on additional legislation to complement the HEROES Act and offer more investments in infrastructure as additional economic stimulus.
We do have one fun update: if you’re bummed about not getting your favorite Fair foods with the Minnesota State Fair canceled this year, we do have a bit of good news. State Fair vendors have been popping up at various roadside and business outposts throughout the state, selling everything from mini doughnuts to cheese curds and deep-fried pickles to corn dogs. The MN Fair Food Finder map is tracking the whereabouts of various vendors offering fair foods.
Many eyes in Minnesota are focused on the work being done at multiple levels of our government right now. The state legislature, county boards, and city councils are all working on proposals to reform systems and make Minnesota more equitable. There are a lot of disparities so there are a lot of ideas, and a lot of approaches. There are also a lot of voices in the conversation, as there should be.
Yesterday afternoon, I had one eye on the legislature, and one eye on the Saint Paul city council. (Those of you with jobs like mine know the special technology fun that simultaneous hearings bring.) The council was discussing amendments to the new rental ordinance. This proposal has been in formation for more than a year, and the people who have been working on it that entire time are legitimately frustrated with delays caused by covid-19. The list of amendments was long, and the issues wide-ranging and nuanced. Sometimes there was agreement, sometimes there was division. The public hearing is scheduled for next week, and depending on that testimony there may be additional amendments offered. At the end of the hours-long debate, Councilmember Noecker said something that I thought was both simple and profound.
"We are elected to this job to listen and to think and to hear from as many constituents as possible, and we can't do that honestly if we commit ourselves right away to the very first draft. It is great for us to disagree and argue about the specific amendments that are being offered, but to disagree with the IDEA of amendments is to discount the public process and it discounts our responsibility as councilmembers to represent very diverse constituencies."
This story could be repeated for issues and ideas being debated by any elected body across the state right now. And that's good. As a very wise person said to me once, "public policy done quickly is often public policy done badly."
Systemic change is hard, and complicated, and representative government is designed to be slow. Legitimate stalling tactics should be called out for what they are. But genuine efforts to discuss, to find the nuance and deal with unintended consequences, and to involve as many voices as want to be part of the discussion should be celebrated, not belittled.
To have true change in our cities and state, we need everyone to put their very best ideas forward, and then expect to participate in the most productive discussion as we can. We should ask nothing less of our elected officials, and they should ask nothing less of us.
Director of Public Affairs
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We’re well into this “New Normal,” aren’t we? Fully three months since mid-March, when – for the U.S. – our world began to change. Of course this is defined by, well, nothing being “normal.” As we look ahead, the good news is that more granting opportunities continue to be available. Just this past weekend the Legislature approved $60M in new funding for the smallest of our businesses. To organize the opportunities in my head, I thought I’d lay them all out – maybe they will be a help to you as well:
Legislative granting of $60M: details TBD, coordinating with DEED to ensure we get information out ASAP.
Ramsey County Small Business Relief Fund (SBRF): applications closed June 12.
LISC Small Business Relief Grants: Applications, Grant Information Overview and FAQ can be found here.
The Neighbors United Collaborative Fund: finalizing application process. Click here for more information (or to donate).
We ❤ St. Paul/Midway Fund: still in fundraising mode, finalizing application process. Donate now at www.WeLoveStPaul.com.
We ❤ Lake Street fund: finalizing application process and rolling up into partnership with Minneapolis Forward: Community Now Coalition. Donate now at www.welovelakestreet.com/
Technical assistance: Pay It Forward initiative, a collaboration of partners: www.saintpaulchamber.com/payitforward.
Non-monetary contributions/needs, including volunteers, are being coordinated by the City of Saint Paul: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.stpaul.gov/serve/neighbors-helping.
And one final request, for us chambers. As all of us work so hard to serve the small business community, especially now, I’d ask you to consider the following: our partners at ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) have launched a new sign-on letter urging Congress to expand access to the Paycheck Protection Program to 501(c)(6) organizations. We don’t expect to see action to expand eligibility to PPP until the next major legislative package. Good news is that (c)(6) eligibility should be on the table given that it was included in the proposal passed by the House. Bad news is that passage of the fourth COVID-19 stimulus bill could be weeks away. Let's keep up our messaging with our lawmakers. Please consider signing on to ASAE’s letter before June 22.
I had the most pleasant conversation this morning with a new friend, Senator Jeff Hayden. Many of you already know him; he’s the Assistant Minority Leader in the Senate, representing District 62 – including the intersection where George Floyd died 2-1/2 weeks ago. You also may know that Senator Hayden is part of the POCI Caucus, which is developing a legislative agenda around police and criminal justice reform.
I was introduced to Senator Hayden by a friend of mine. I called with the initial intent of learning about the POCI Caucus agenda. Yes I learned a bit about that, but I learned more about the man. His grandfather moved to Minnesota, bought a home, in 1918. In South Minneapolis. Hayden himself spent his young adult years in service to the Minneapolis community he now represents. His dad still runs Turning Point, a chemical health support program for the African American community North Minneapolis. When first elected to the state legislature in 2008, Hayden was one of two black members of the House. He moved to the Senate 3 years later and continues to be in service today.
I share all this with you because the person interests me. His energy attracts me. His caring for people inspires me. Frankly, I want to care about Senator Hayden so I care about what he cares about. Now, that won’t always equal agreeing with him. Caring implies civil discourse; courteous exchange; respectful dialogue. We all are due that, aren’t we? I submit to you that we all are called to that. Tomorrow starts a Special Session that I anticipate will be fraught with tensions. Now is the time for us to lean in, pay attention, support what we value, and do so with lens towards civility and respect that truly allows us to move forward. I’m glad Jeff Hayden’s is one of the voices we will hear.
Now I know this Sit Rep is all about COVID-19, so I’ll get back to that right now…. Worth noting is the continued decline in number of people in the hospital. Have you noticed that? I looked back at my Sit Reps and noted that we have been declining from our high of 606 people in the hospital on 5/28. Today the MDH reports 411 people in the hospital. That is very good news.
I imagine most of us read about this past weekend’s passing of Marny Xiong, Saint Paul Public School Board Chairwoman, due to the COVID-19 virus. She was a good friend to many of us…a friend shared with me this morning that the light inside her was not a “flash” but was, instead, unending love and commitment to her work. She had so much left to give to the world. Such a painful loss. This is one example, replicated so many times across our lives, of the losses we are experiencing.
We are grieving with you all today.
And yet, as we're still hurting, we're also still working.
I watched the powerful memorial service for George Floyd this afternoon, pausing to reflect on this past week, while talking with folks throughout the day on what we can do differently moving forward. My heartfelt sympathy is again extended to the family of George Floyd.
The COVID-19 pandemic created an emerging economic crisis unlike any we have faced in recent memory and the tragic death of George Floyd and the unrest that followed has devastated many of our small businesses. Many are now struggling as well to repair and rebuild.
In our effort to help our Charitable Foundation, a registered 501(c)3, is partnering with the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance and Midway Chamber of Commerce, together now are collecting financial donations to support our community with direct financial support for small businesses and nonprofits to help them rebuild their storefronts, reopen their businesses and serve our neighborhoods.
As we work to allocate and distribute these funds, we will focus on helping the hardest-hit and most vulnerable businesses in our community, which disproportionately includes immigrant and POC-owned businesses.
Please donate at www.WeLoveStPaul.com.
Non-monetary contributions, including volunteers, are being coordinated by the City of Saint Paul: email@example.com
See more ideas for how/where can you help here.
Governor Tim Walz calls it ‘the most difficult week in Minnesota’s memory: “What the world has witnessed since the killing of George Floyd on Monday has been a visceral pain, a community trying to understand who we are and where we go from here.’”
The New York Times” today wrote about “The Minnesota Paradox”: a region with one of the country’s highest standards of living by many measures also has some of the largest racial inequities in the U.S.
And here we are, in the middle of it. The killing of George Floyd is challenging all of us, perhaps in ways we don’t yet understand. But I do understand one thing: the drumbeat of change continues to grow louder, more insistent and, as we are seeing, of immediate urgency.
In March of 2020, in response to COVID-19, the Center for Economic Inclusion released an Inclusive Recovery Agenda. The strategies that the most inclusive U.S. cities have adopted are included in their call to action.
I’ve read that agenda. SPACC is absolutely committed to strategies necessary to move our community forward. We are building a shared vision, establishing cross-sector partnerships, building the voice and power in BIPOC communities, re-framing inclusion as integral to growth, and adopting inclusive policies and programs. I urge you to review the Agenda, endorse it, identify actions your own company can take this summer to align your investments, employment, procurement, and policy agendas.
Because the most important strategy is “Inspire and sustain bold leadership.” Few of us feel up to such a challenge; yet, we are called to do so based on our positions, our agency, our humanity. I am inspired and encouraged by Barack Obama’s tweet today because it is, indeed, our charge: “How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change.”
Find out where can you help businesses rebuild after this past weekend’s violence.