Updated: May 14, 2020
During times of uncertainty, our Chamber remains committed to providing your business resources to guide you. The well-being of our community and businesses is a priority. Following are articles, information, and tools you can share with your staff and use for your company. We will continue to update this list as we learn more.
Business Reopen Toolkit
- Can my business be open? Review the guidance
- COVID-19 Preparedness Plan template – Word document | PDF
- Checklist guidelines for creating a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan – Word document | PDF
- If you have additional questions about returning to work, submit your questions
Loans and Funding
he 2020 Fast Grants program is to provide immediate financial assistance to businesses who have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is also intended to provide gap funding for businesses who have sought the Small Business Administration’s or Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s loan programs and have had a difficult time obtaining funding. The 2020 Fast Grants program is seeking to provide local support to preserve 1,200 jobs within the City of Duluth during the Covid-19 pandemic. The PDF application can be found online at www.1200fund.com and includes a list of supporting documentation to be submitted with the application.
Applications and questions should be submitted electronically to: email@example.com. If you require the application or other materials in alternate formats, please email or call 218-730-5310. Applications will be accepted NOW through 11:59 PM on Thursday, April 23, 2020. Depending on funding availability, additional grant rounds may occur.
Businesses are eligible if they meet the following criteria :
- Employ between two (2) and fifty (50) employees
- Gross revenues of $5,000,000 or less annually
- In operation within Duluth city limits prior to January 1, 2020
- Demonstrate that revenue has been impacted by Covid-19, and forced to close or significantly scale back operations under current executive orders
- Must be able to identify funding needs to support continued operations or reopening
Grant Amount: $10,000 per organization; current 1200 Fund borrowers are eligible for up to $20,000. Funding for the 2020 Fast Grants program is limited, and may be quickly exhausted if demand exceeds available funding. The 1200 Fund cannot guarantee that all eligible applicants will receive funding.
Other requirements: Grantees who have received the grant must provide a report to the 1200 Fund Board as to how the funding was spent.
Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.
SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.
You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.
Small Business Administration Disaster Loans
SBA is unable to accept new applications at this time for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)-COVID-19 related assistance program (including EIDL Advances) based on available appropriations funding.
Applicants who have already submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
DEED Small Business Emergency Loans
Another financial security option is now available to Minnesotan businesses. Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has established a loan program to assist small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses are a vital part of Minnesota’s economy and this program will provide a source of working capital to help businesses sustain operations during this challenging time. Locate details and application on the DEED website:
LISC Rapid Relief Grants for Small Businesses & NonprofitsDesigned to rapidly inject cash into struggling businesses and non-profits nationally, LISC is proud to announce a partnership with Verizon to begin offering critical relief support to small businesses. The Verizon-LISC COVID-19 Recovery Fund is supported by a $2.5 million investment from Verizon.Partnering with Verizon, LISC will be making grants of up to $10,000, especially to entrepreneurs of color, women-owned businesses and other enterprises in historically under-served places who don’t have access to flexible, affordable capital. The competitive grant application is available online and must be completed by Saturday, April 4, 10:59 p.m.Keep the following in mind as you prepare to apply:
- For business owners with multiple businesses, please answer this survey based on your largest business owned.
- Include Duluth LISC in your application as referral source.
- Each awardee is limited to one grant per tax ID. You will need this ID to complete the application.
- Eligibility is based on accurate and complete submission of request to include required documents uploaded.
- This program is not eligible to employees of Verizon or LISC.
- Your application must be completed by Saturday, April 4th, 10:59 p.m. CST/11:59 p.m. ET.Grant selection will be based on a lottery-award system. Please be sure to list Duluth LISC as to how you learned about this grant opportunity in your application. Awards will be announced on April 14, 2020. For questions, please contact Pam Kramer at Duluth LISC, firstname.lastname@example.org or 218.727.7761.
Child Care Grants
On Thursday, the Legislature responded by approving $30 million in grants for child care centers and in-home providers as part of a larger spending package aimed at mitigating the economic and public health damage of coronavirus.
Under the bill, child care providers that are currently operating can apply for a $4,500 monthly grant. Providers are also eligible for an extra $1,000 if the program serves children who have special needs, don’t speak English or if the service is open during nonstandard hours like nights and weekends. Larger child care centers that care for 15 or more children can get an additional monthly grant up to $15,500, based on capacity.
The Northland Foundation will award $1,000 to licensed family child care and $3,000 to licensed child care centers on a first-come, first-served basis for as long as funds are available. Northland has committed $50,000 for grants to child care providers in the region, and the other five foundations have contributed the same amount to grant within their respective rural regions.
More details and the short online application are available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DR2BB77 Northland Foundation staff will provide a response and funding to qualified child care businesses within two weeks of receiving their application.
Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation has opened application for the following grants:COVID-19 Northeast Minnesota Response Fund – For Non Profits on the front lines of the COVID-19 response in Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis Counties. In particular, this fund will focus on nonprofits working with communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and its consequences.
COVID-19 Northwest Wisconsin Response Fund – For Non Profits doing similar work in Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas Counties.
Community Opportunity Fund – One time support for core operating expenditures, with a few exceptions as outlined in the attached guidelines.
Knight Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund – To support the immediate needs of organizations located in Duluth. Grants will be based on the following priorities: Arts organizations, Local news reporting, Community engagementGrant Application Portal: Proposals for these funds begin with a very brief “letter of intent.” Letters of intent submitted under the “COVID-19” grant program in the portal will be reviewed within 24 hours of submittal. If you have questions, please contact the Community Philanthropy Department at email@example.com.
The Entrepreneur Fund has developed the Small Business Relief Fund to support businesses in our region hard hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. Funding will allow EF to provide financial grant assistance to business owners who are facing significant challenges but do not qualify for local, state or federal relief.
Shared Work Program to Avoid Layoffs
Shared Work is offered by the MN Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program to help employers avoid a layoff. The program allows employers to divide available hours of work among a group of employees instead of implementing a full layoff. These employees may then receive partial unemployment insurance benefits while working reduced hours.
The purpose of Shared Work is to avoid a layoff, not to subsidize wages. Shared Work can help employers avoid the difficulties that can go along with a layoff. If employees keep working during a temporary slowdown, employers can more quickly gear up when business conditions improve.
Learn more about the Shared Work Program on the Unemployment Insurance Division’s website.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is encouraging people who’ve lost work because of the novel coronavirus to apply for unemployment benefits promptly.
DEED’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) program assists workers who can’t work, have their hours reduced or lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic. The UI program is prepared and ready to assist these workers. If you are unemployed or have your hours reduced, you may apply for unemployment benefits by visiting www.uimn.org.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) published its first round of implementation guidance pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).The guidance addresses critical questions such as:
- How does an employer count its number of employees to determine coverage?
- How can small businesses obtain an exemption?
- How does an employer count hours for part-time employees?
- How does an employer calculate wages employees are entitled to under the FFCRA?
The initial WHD guidance is available in three-parts:
Education and Counseling
Financial Support – Where to StartDifferent programs make sense for different businesses. Minnesota DEED has created a Covid 19 summary guide to help small businesses quickly see which programs might be right for their situation.
SBA works with a number of local partners to counsel, mentor, and train small businesses. The SBA has 68 District Offices, as well as support provided by its Resource Partners, such as SCORE offices, Women’s Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers. When faced with a business need, use the SBA’s Local Assistance Directory to locate the office nearest you.
Resources in the Twin Ports:
Women’s Business Alliance North
Women’s Business Center
202 W. Superior Street, Suite 311
Duluth, MN 55802
Northeast Minnesota SBDC
Small Business Development Center
11 East Superior Street, Suite 210
Duluth, MN 55802
Northeast Minnesota SBDC consultants are assisting clients throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. Connect with us to continue your projects or to get help with advice and ideas for how to keep your business as healthy as possible during these uncertain times. Contact your SBDC consultant by email or phone, direct your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nesbdc.org to sign up for consulting services. The American SBDC has a webpage with information and resources: https://americassbdc.org/coronavirus-information/
Wisconsin Small Business Development Center ~ UW S
Small Business Development Center
108 Erlanson Hall, 825 N 18th St
Superior, WI 54880
Free Financial Counseling
LSS Financial Counseling (part of Lutheran Social Service of MN) is available to local residents. We offer financial counseling services across the state, nation, and have an office in Duluth. We provide budget counseling, strategies to address debt, housing counseling, student loan repayment counseling and more. Speaking with one of our Certified Financial Counselors is free to everyone.
We all know that news about COVID-19 and its impact is changing all the time. The one thing that remains constant is our program’s commitment to serve area residents with realistic financial guidance and strategies. Appointments are available by telephone and online appointments. Until further notice, face-to-face/in person office appointments in Duluth will not be available for the health and safety of those served, as well as employees. Our Scheduling Team can be reached at 888.577.2227, Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. Residents may also reach out to us for financial counseling via online service on our website.
Health Insurance Counseling
Are you laid off? You could qualify for low-cost health insurance from the state of Minnesota. Free navigation assistance available! Call to discuss your options. MNsure Navigators help with applications, reporting changes, renewals, and more.
Lake Superior Community Health Center – (218) 722-9650
Community Action Duluth – (218) 726-1665
Generations Health Care Initiatives – (218) 336-5709
Tell Legislators How Tax Extensions Can Help Your BusinessLast week, the Minnesota Chamber heard from businesses around the state on how delaying tax payments would help their business. Now, we need policymakers to hear more business voices before they return to the legislative session next week.This is not advocating for payments not to be made. We are seeking time for your businesses to be able to continue to have cash to pay employees, pay benefits, pay operating costs and access federal and state loans and grants. Tell state legislators and Governor Walz how delaying tax due dates would help your business.
A Message from Minnesota Senator Erik Simonson“In what I’m sure is a stressful and uncertain time for you and your business, I wanted to take this opportunity to express my full support for you and your employees, share information on available assistance and resources, and express my support for a series of proposals that will provide immediate relief to your business.”Our Chamber encourages you to read the full letter to our business community. In it, Sen. Simonson provides business resources, his contact information, and information on his legislative priorities, advocating for your business during this time. Simonson is supporting initiatives such as:
- Business Tax Relief,
- Assistance to Bars and Restaurants,
- Expansion and Reforms of Unemployment Insurance,
- Utilities, and more.
Extension for February Deadline for Tourism Tax Returns
In coordination with the State of MN announcement extending the due date for February sales tax returns filed with the State due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Duluth will be extending the due date of February tourism tax returns that are due March 20th until April 20th.
Tourism Tax returns for the month of February must be filed no later than April 20th. Penalties and interest will not be charged if the February tourism tax returns are filed and paid by April 20th. Returns that have already been filed will not be refunded. Additional instructions regarding this announcement can be found on the City’s website at http://www.duluthmn.gov/Finance. Monies received by the City from tourism tax returns are used by the City to support our tourism industry partners.
Bag Fee Delayed
The Chamber has championed to the Duluth City Council the motion to delay the pending plastic carry out bag fee, planned for implementation by April 1. Last night, city councilors voted on the motion. The vote was unanimous in support of delaying the ordinance until January 1, 2021. This delay alleviates grocers and other retailers whose immediate focus is on this global health and economic emergency.
Safety + Security
Chamber President David Ross has been in contact with Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken. We have encouraged DPD to utilize our chamber as a resource for safety communications that need disseminating to the business community. Conversations are taking place regarding the security of your business in the event of a stay in place order.
Chamber Advocates for Child Care
COVID-19 has impacted child care plans for many families and providers. Prior to the pandemic the child care shortage in Duluth was daunting and compromised our ability to attract and retain our workforce needs threatening the future economic stability of our business community. Child care providers are faced with enormous amounts of regulations and run razor thin margins forcing many to close their doors. Now, child care providers are considered essential workforce that are asked to keep their doors open while the rest of the community shelter in place. Their role is critical for providing medical workers children care while they combat the current coronavirus outbreak. These individuals were potentially exposing themselves and their staff to COVID-19 without additional financial assistance from the state or federal government.
The Chamber understands the importance quality child care is for our local families and the stability and support of these unsung heroes is our responsibility. We were proud to advocate alongside City Councilor, Arik Forsman, at the State level for robust emergency funding for these incredibly important essential workers during our current crisis and into the future.
Petition for To-Go Alcohol Sales
Without on-premise dining, the restaurant industry has no on-premise alcohol sales to generate much-needed income, says a news release on change.org.
The group has launched a petition to persuade the state of Minnesota to allow any on-premise licensee to sell closed containers for off-premise consumption, any alcoholic beverages that it is able to sell for on-premise consumption under the law.
For example, if a customer is placing a to-go order from an establishment that sells wine and beer, they would be able to purchase wine and beer to-go. The New York State Liquor Authority has already implemented action to protect its beverage industry, and we are urging Minnesota to follow suit. The petition can be found here.
Coronavirus Resources and Helpful Tips
Beware of ScamsWe have received notice that scammers are attempting to gain sensitive information through false associations to available loans. If you have a question about someone contacting you, keep some things in mind:
- Don’t release any private information (especially Social Security numbers, credit card information, or banking information) in response to an unsolicited call, letter, or email.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for more information on a company before you commit to anything.
- Contact your state’s Attorney General’s office.
- Do a reverse search of the phone number on the internet–you’ll often find that several people have listed the number as belonging to scammers. Ask for the number if you don’t have caller ID.Here are some tips that should help.
- Legitimate government entities will have websites and emails that end with .gov such as http://www.sba.gov.
- Search “scam” or “scams” on http://www.sba.gov. You’ll find many of the scams that we already know exist.
- Report scams. Report to the BBB and to the Attorney General. If someone purports to be affiliated with the SBA, contact your SBA office.
- Contact your SBA office if you’re not sure how to apply for small business certification programs or have other questions pertaining to your small business.
What is COVID-19 (coronavirus)?
What Does the State of Emergency Mean?
On March 13, Governor Tim Walz declared a state of emergency for Minnesota. This action activates the Emergency Operations Center to help agencies coordinate from one location and makes it easier to purchase needed medical supplies, protect consumers from price gouging, and increase county health departments’ access to state funds.
Equipping Your Office
Supporting Your Staff
Ensuring Your Business Operations
COVID-19 Communication Archive
If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, please contact:
Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce