So many updates for you, I won’t take up more space. Let’s get to them!
TODAY’S SHOUT-OUTS, #BusinessDoingGood
Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities: In the last 3 weeks, BGCTW has distributed close to 35,000 meals, plus 500 plus weekly academic and activity bags of supplies and printable packets.
Saint Paul Hotel: On March 18, The Saint Paul Hotel began serving food to first responders and front line health care heroes. Within the first two weeks they served over 3,900 meals. This has expanded to include the feeding of families with sick children, supporting Gillette Children’s and the Ronald McDonald House. The demand has been such that operations relocated to the Saint Paul RiverCentre. To date, they plan on continuing through May 3, when the SAH Order is lifted. They are fast approaching 4,000 meals at the RiverCentre, serving 700 yesterday alone. At this pace, they should reach 12,000 meals served. Now that’s a story to celebrate!
Regarding “Phase 3.5” federal stimulus legislation: On Tuesday evening, the Senate passed a $484 billion dollar Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act on Tuesday. House should vote on this Thursday. Among the allocations are:
an additional $349 billion in PPP (for a combined total of $659 billion)
$10 billion for EIDL
$75 billion for hospitals
$25 billion to improve testing capabilities
$11 billion for states, localities, territories and tribes, including at least $4.25 billion in direct funding to those entities based on relative number of COVID-19 numbers.
Growing discussions on the equal accessibility of federal funds through the CARES Act continue. A key contributor, of course, is “first come first served” meant that the most prepared companies were first to apply, and those that need the most help – or those with limited banking resources – have had a more difficult time applying for funds.
On April 21, for the first time in 6 days, Minnesota’s number of new COVID-19 cases came in below 100. For a total of 2,567 cases. That said, in the Governor’s regular briefing that day, Commissioner Malcolm said that numbers are still growing. We are “helping” in that the pandemic is not growing at a rate to overwhelm our resources. Currently we are keeping pace with the needed hospitalizations. The current “doubling rate” of the cases is growing, but on a manageable scale.
As to the recurring question of “when will the Stay At Home order be lifted?”, Commissioner Malcolm’s response on Tuesday was that, the current national guidance, including from The White House, says that you don’t “re-open” or loosen the stay at home restrictions until you have 14 days of decline in cases. We have not seen that. We are still seeing growth. That is not the only variable that the Governor will be looking at, but it is one of them.
Of the 179 deaths in Minnesota thus far, 113 of them have been associated with long term care facilities.
On April 25, Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Minnesotans can deliver homemade masks to their local fire station. Fire stations will then deliver the masks to local congregate living facilities for their employees and residents to wear.
Last week we shared big news from the US Chamber Foundation about $5000 grants for small business. The application site was open at 2:00 pm on Monday. I heard from several companies who logged in at 2:01 pm and were blocked – the site already was overwhelmed. The foundation received 15,000 applications within minutes, the site was locked up, and most were shut out. The Chamber sent out a letter apologizing for the technical difficulties, but no plans for additional opportunities. If you got in, congratulations! For the rest of you, I don’t have any anticipation of another round. It was very disappointing for many of us here in Minnesota.
Big question right now is how political party endorsing conventions will be held. Local conventions and congressional endorsements are being held over the internet thus far. The Republican Party, whose convention is May 15-16, just announced theirs will be virtual. Minnesota’s Democratic Party convention is May 30-31, and that decision has yet to be made. No word yet on how Fall national conventions will be handled, though – at this point - they are required to be in-person.
Minnesota survived the Great Recession better than did the nation overall, in large part due to our diverse economy. It looks to be the same here (though for those of us in these industries, such statistics aren’t that relevant, are they?) Minnesota’s economy is about 19.3% retail, leisure, and hospitality jobs, the lowest among all 50 states. That may help buffer Minnesota against COVID-19 impacts better than states like Nevada, with the highest percentage of service employees at 35.5%. Hawaii is #2 at 30.1%. In Minnesota, Duluth has the highest at 21.6% of its employment in this space.
DEED continues to receive a high volume of questions related to Unemployment Insurance. They have provided a training on DEED’s YouTube page. New questions and answers have also been added to the UI Need to Know page. Recently, TV news shows have featured segments recommending their viewers use a third-party app called DoNotPay to apply for benefits.According to DEED, do not to do this! There is no way the state can protect customers’ information if they have given it to a third party.
As of Tuesday, DEED anticipates that Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will be available for some self-employed workers, independent contractors, and gig workers before the end of April. If a person believes they may qualify for PUA, they should apply for regular unemployment benefits now. UI has special instructions for self-employed people that will allow you to qualify for PUA benefits more quickly once they become available. UI will post updates to the CARES Actpage on the UIMN.org website as they are available.
The business data from DEED is a bit staggering as we learn and feel the impacts of the COVID crisis. We know that 66% of Ramsey County businesses have ten or fewer employees. Additionally, 50% of our businesses have five or fewer employees and qualify as micro-enterprises. These micro/small businesses are typically the most vulnerable in a pre-pandemic era. The unemployment data between March 16 and April 16 show just under 50,000 applications were filed for unemployment in Ramsey County representing approximately 17% of the labor pool.
Special thanks to individuals and families supporting these restaurants and their workers who are fortunate seeing a fraction of typical cash flow even if they are busy with takeout today. Check out this list of curbside, delivery & moreto support your favorites!
COVID-19 update, 4/22/2020 Confirmed cases in Minnesota: from 2,470 to 2,721 Confirmed cases in U.S. (as of 4/21): almost 788,000 Confirmed cases globally (as of 4/21): close to 2.5M Cases requiring hospitalization: from 602 to 660 #s currently hospitalized: from 240 #s no longer needing to be isolated: from 1,317 #s tested: from 46,850 to 49,344 Total deaths in Minnesota: from 143 to 179 Total deaths in U.S. (updated 4/21): over 42,300 Total deaths globally (updated 4/21): over 170,000 Counties represented: Hennepin County: from 1,073 Ramsey County: from 219 Dakota County: from 130 Washington County: from 100
Know that we continue to work with our partners to organize information and coordinate efforts to educate our community. As always, if you still have questions about resources available, contact our Rapid Response Team to assist you in finding an answer.
B Kyle President/CEO Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce