In Monday's Sit Rep, I had two questions on my mind: 1) is there another Special Session in our future? And 2) is our economic recovery stalling? We will, indeed, have a second Special Session, starting Monday, July 13. We can anticipate Governor Walz asking for another extension of the peacetime emergency order. My sincere hope is that we make more progress this round.
Governor Walz also is still considering a statewide mask mandate. Reactions to this prospect are mixed. Some restaurateurs, for example, would prefer the government be the “bad guy,” allowing them the right to refuse service to non-mask-wearing patrons. Other business leaders, understanding that customer confidence is key to an economic rebound, feel capable of following guidelines to assure a safe experience for employees and customers alike – without the need for a mandate.
Earlier this week, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove asked a few chamber executives our opinion on this. I’ve appreciated the sensible and measured approach thus far: government offers strong guidance while leaving room for “reasonable people.” I’m more interested in a “should” rather than a “must” approach. That said, my top priority is ensuring the Governor does not “dial back” on reopening plans. Warnings of “the carrot turning to a stick” are most decidedly not helpful. Keep a pace that makes sense, sure. But businesses need certainty – as much as is possible with a very uncontrollable situation. Should the Governor choose to “dial back” any Phase 3 decisions, that would be far worse than the wearing of masks, and another devastating blow for all of us.
Ultimately, what is the mood of business leaders? I follow reports published by Vistage, an international executive coaching organization for small and mid-sized businesses. I just read their Q2 CEO Confidence Report. Certainly, confidence among their CEOs has plunged. Revenue and profit expectations, as well as planned investments and hiring, all fell by more than 20%. That said, the majority recognize the current standstill as situational – rather than a fundamental economic indicator. And the majority anticipate that the economy will improve from its current dismal performance in the year ahead. That’s my take – my sincere hope - as well.
Don’t forget: The application for We ❤ St. Paul/Midway fund is live. Please apply, and share with any businesses you know were impacted by the civil unrest: See Application here. To date, the We ❤ St. Paul/Midway: $160K received, another $400K committed so far. Please donate if you can!
#BusinessDoingGood 3M invests $500K in Sanneh Foundation
#BackToBusiness Welcome new businesses, starting despite all odds! Notable among them are Pillbox Tavern in St. Paul’s Treasure Island Center; East Side Bar; Coffee Cup on Randolph; and FoodSmith Pub in West St. Paul. Twin Cities Business highlights more!
Administration Updates this week: MDH Commissioner Malcolm, Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann Hospital and ICU situation remains stable. 12.5% increase in total testing week over week 7.9% increase in new cases over that same time period Rolling 7-day positivity rate is 4.4%, an increase from 4.18% reported on Monday (5-day lag factor). We are beginning to see some reemerging supply chain challenges with respect to laboratory supplies nationwide. Some being redirected to hot spot states, and continuing case growth. We also anticipate an extension of lab processing times, due to increased demand elsewhere. See testing options and long term care visiting guidance on MDH website. We’re hearing about “COVID parties.” The idea is to get together, “get COVID when it’s more convenient for them.” This is a really bad idea. Remember, we’ve had at least 3 deaths in otherwise healthy people in their 20s. At this point, no evidence of any transmission from such parties. There has been a surge of young adult cases in Edina. Contributing factors: sports teams parties, cabin trips, house parties. Reminder that young people are not immune; and the surge is not restricted to Edina. Indeed, we are seeing this across the state. Bars and restaurants continue to be a significant source of exposure for young people. Several hundred cases in the last weeks.
Articles of interest: The retail bankruptcies and store closings just keep coming. For some merchants, the pandemic was ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.’ From the Chicago Tribune, July 9: Many of America’s storied retailers already were facing big challenges, but the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened difficult decisions that will mean job losses and empty storefronts in the Chicago area and elsewhere. Stay-at-home orders, layoffs and furloughs dented consumer spending that is only now coming back in fits and starts. U.S. retail and food service sales rose an estimated 17.7% in May compared with April, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
U.S. coronavirus cases rise by over 60,000, setting single-day record From REUTERS, July 8: The U.S. reported more than 60,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the biggest increase ever reported by a country in a single day, according to a Reuters tally. The United States faces a bleak summer with record-breaking infections and many states forced to close parts of the economy again, leaving some workers without a paycheck. In addition to nearly 10,000 new cases in Florida, Texas reported over 9,500 cases and California reported more than 8,500 new infections. California and Texas also each reported a record one-day increase in deaths.
Fauci says states need to address problems with COVID-19 response: 'If you don't admit it, you can't correct it' From USA TODAY, July 8: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday that states need to face problems with their coronavirus responses because "if you don't admit it, you can't correct it." In an interview with "The Journal," a podcast from the Wall Street Journal, Fauci discussed the alarming rates of coronavirus cases that are surging in some states that reopened quickly. "What we're seeing is exponential growth, it went from an average of about 20,000 to 40,000 and 50,000. That's doubling,” Fauci said. Fauci told Congress last week that new coronavirus infections could increase to 100,000 a day if the nation doesn’t get its surge of cases under control.
'We're going to see changing COVID-19 information,' Minnesota lawmakers are told From the Rochester Post Bulletin, July 8: During expert testimony on Wednesday, Penny Wheeler, president and CEO of Allina Health, told the hearing that "we now treat people differently than we did before." Wheeler said Alina is seeing 75% of patients on ventilators now surviving, calling that "the inverse of what was seen early in New York."
U.S. hiring soared in May as mass layoffs eased From the St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 7: The U.S. job market took a big step toward healing in May, though plenty of damage remains, as a record level of hiring followed record layoffs in March and April. The Labor Department reported Tuesday that the number of available jobs rose sharply as well, but remained far below pre-pandemic levels.
Minnesota employers got $10.2 billion in emergency pandemic aid - PPP From the Star Tribune, July 7: 132 employers in Minnesota, from private schools and law firms to restaurants, received at least $5 million. The program, which is credited with lowering unemployment this spring, helped employers bring back more than 51 million jobs in the U.S. at a time when the economy was crashing. But many employers have been critical of the program, especially retailers and restaurant owners, who say the government essentially pressured them into rehiring furloughed workers at a time when they were still shut down and unable to generate much if any revenue.
SBA releases data on PPP recipients - These loans translated to thousands of saved jobs. See all the data here.
Minnesota cities set their own mask requirements to fight COVID-19 From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 7: In the absence of any state or federal order, mayors and city councils around Minnesota are passing local requirements to wear masks while indoors to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
About a fifth of U.S. adults moved due to COVID-19, or know someone who did From the Pew Research Center, July 6: Experiences with coronavirus-related relocations vary by demographic characteristics. The age group most impacted are the nation’s young adults, ages 18-29 yo.
Bremer tops all banks for PPP loans of $150K or more to MN employers From the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, July 7: Bremer Bank made more Paycheck Protection Program loans of $150,000 or more to Minnesota-based employers than any other bank, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Small Business Administration that disclosed many of the companies that took out PPP loans and which banks did the lending.
'Extremely positive trends’ at MSP airport include more planes, passengers and parked cars From the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, July 7: The worst of the pandemic-related slowdown in air travel may now be behind MSP.
Bridge Fund Small Business Dataset From the City of Saint Paul, updated June 24: This is a dataset of the small businesses that applied for the Bridge Fund and includes: self-reported survey responses; award information; and geographic information
Legislature: Governor Walz will call a second special session to begin on Monday, July 13th. It is unclear how long it will run. The first special session ran from June 12 to June 18, and not much was accomplished. We’ll see if there is more agreement on the major issues now that almost a month has passed.
Major issues to be considered include: A bonding bill – we understand the Governor and leaders may be nearing agreement on a bill of around $1.25B for capital projects around the state, but things remain fluid. A tax bill – Senate Republicans have indicated a strong interest in having certain tax conformity and deductions passing into law this year. Police reform and accountability – this was perhaps the most divisive issue addressed during the first special session. Additional COVID-related spending.
COVID-19 update as of 7/9/2020 Confirmed cases in Minnesota: 40,163 % Positives, last 7 days (as of 7/8): 4.4% Confirmed cases in U.S.: over 3M Confirmed cases globally: over 12.1M Cases requiring hospitalization: 4,305 (representing 10.7% of total) #s currently hospitalized: 251 (down from 258 on 7/6) #s no longer needing to be isolated: 35,193 #s tested: 705,440 Total deaths in Minnesota: 1,490 (1,165/78.1% cases in long term care or assisted living facilities) Total deaths in U.S.: over 132K Total deaths globally: over 551K Cases in Counties represented: Hennepin County: 12,867 (789 deaths) Ramsey County: 5,066 (230 deaths) Dakota County: 2,524 (94 deaths) Washington County: 1,190 (40 deaths)
Resources SBA is again accepting PPP applications More than $130 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funding remains to help those impacted by COVID-19. Here's what you need to know: Nonprofits and faith-based organizations, sole proprietors, independent contractors and those who are self-employed are all eligible. Forgiveness is easier to qualify for with the PPP Flexibility Act signed into law in June. To qualify for forgiveness, at least 60% of the loan must be spent on payroll within 24 weeks of disbursement. The new deadline to apply is Aug. 8, 2020. Find a MN PPP lender to start the application process.
See available SBA COVID-19 training here.
For more on SBA programs for the coronavirus, visit www.sba.gov/coronavirus.
Minnesota Chamber’s COVID-19 Business Toolkit has a dedicated section for employment guidance that can help.
Visit our events 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 safe and be well,
B B Kyle President/CEO Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce