After a long, painful year, the sun in brighter than ever and the end of COVID-19 is in sight. Vaccine progress is having an impact, and now 90 percent of school districts are offering some in-person learning, 94 percent of long-term care facilities are open for visitors, and more Minnesotans are back at work as customers return to businesses.
Recognizing the progress we have made on vaccines and controlling the spread of COVID, we can take a cautious step to support personal well-being and the business economy by loosening some restrictions.
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.
Minnesota Students Now Eligible for Unemployment Insurance
A court decision on 12/14/20 has expanded eligibility of Unemployment Insurance to student workers in Minnesota, under Pandemic Unemployment Insurance. Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has begun issuing payments to student workers. Benefits will be retroactive.
Any high school or college-age student whose job has been impacted by COVID-19 should apply at www.uimn.org, immediately. If you have already applied, you do not need to apply again. Eligibility is determined on a case by case basis.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s (Department) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from the effective date through December 31, 2020.
Read more about FFCRA here.
Financial Support – Where to Start
Different 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 info*AT*nesbdc.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
Chamber Advocates in Support of the Drink Local Economic Recovery Act
February 25, 2021 – The Duluth Area Chamber, on behalf of its many Chamber members who operate bars, breweries, brewpubs, cideries, distilleries, liquor stores, restaurants, and wineries, submitted a letter of support advocating for the passing of The Drink Local Economic Recovery Act. Passing this bill will aid in the economic growth and recovery of our state by allowing the rehiring up to 100,000 hospitality jobs throughout Minnesota and creating a substantial infusion of income for the state’s numerous food and beverage proprietors.
Read more here: https://duluthchamber.com/chamber-advocates-in-support-of-the-drink-local-economic-recovery-act/
Chamber Advocates for Business Relief
November 24, 2020 – We understand this is a challenging time for our hospitality, fitness, and event/entertainment members. The Duluth Chamber is part of the Minnesota Ready Coalition, and has signed a letter appealing to Governor Walz for immediate assistance to those businesses most affected by Executive Order 20-99. A copy of the letter may be viewed here.
Duluth Stormwater Utility Fee Increase Delayed
On Monday, August 17, Chamber President David Ross distributed a letter to the Duluth Public Utilities Commission and the Duluth City Council regarding the proposed plan for increasing stormwater utility rates. Such a delay would allow the business community additional time to recover from COVID-19-related financial hardship before the proposed rate increases.
As a result of the Chamber’s request, the Duluth Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously earlier this week in favor to delay the implementation of a stormwater utilities increase. A compromise was reached on the amount of time for the delay – six months – citing the importance of the rate increase for stormwater utilities, and while still recognizing the financial burden of COVID-19. The new rate will begin July 1, 2021.
Read more here: Duluth News Tribune 8/18/20
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.
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.
New $216 Million Financial Aid Package for Businesses
On December 14, 2020, the Minnesota Legislature passed a $216 million financial aid package to provide grants to businesses hit hardest by COVID-19. $88 million is dedicated to businesses experiencing 30% loss, or more, of revenue due to the pandemic. $14 million to movie theaters and convention centers. Plus, nearly $115 million for Minnesota counties to distribute. The bill also extends Unemployment Insurance through April 2021.
We encourage you to read more details about the bill from the Duluth News Tribune.
Paycheck Protection Program
Applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) closed August 8, 2020. Learn more at https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program.
Frequently Asked Questions for Lenders and Borrowers (08/11/2020)
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.
Child Care Grants
The Northland Foundation received nearly 300 applications from providers across the region and was able to make 180 grants totaling over $230,000. All available funds have been awarded.
Beware of Scams
We 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
If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, please contact:
Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce