DEED Call Notes 5/7/2020
APPLE VALLEY CHAMBER NOTE: Today’s Q & A section is particularly insightful because they give key updates from last week. Those topics include:
Q & A TOPICS UPDATED FROM LAST WEEK
- SBA Separate $ pools, Disallowing PPP Robotic Calls
- PPP NIGHT FOR SMALL BANKS ONLY
- Can PPP Increase Salaries
- Self Employed & Independent Contractors (denied, past taxes, multiple loan)
- Non-Essential & Choose to remain closed, affect on UI
- Resorts, summer employees, quarantine, testing
- They listen to Chambers, Associations, Unions, You/public (how to send in)
- DEED Safework Link for open plans, DO NOT SUBMIT TO DEED
- DEED SBEL Loans completely through lenders
- If open & no customers, will State Market for customers to shop
- Business vs. Union Opening Safety Plans
COMMISSIONERS DIRECT AFTER Q & A
- Insurance & Real Estate Licensing Renewals
- Update on RETAIL, NO PLAN to move TO FULLY OPEN YET (GOVERNOR SPEAKS ON TV TODAY AT 2 and will comment)
- Utilities concerns
Chamber President Ed Kearney will be on a Zoom call directly with the Governor at 11 am along with other Chamber Presidents. We requested this direct call so that Chambers can inform the Governor directly about your concerns in reopening.
2020 05 07 Call, DEED
Thursday, May 7, 2020
Steve Kelley, Commissioner of Commerce
Nicole Blissenbach, Asst Commissioner of Department of Labor and Industry
Joanna Bayers, Sr Ex Officer Tax Policy, Revenue
Steve Grove, Commissioner of DEED
Kevin McKinnon, Deputy Commissioner of DEED
Darielle Dannon, Legislative Director
Anna Peterson, DEED Chief of Staff
Purpose: regular business call with state government. How can we do more for business?
Questions are being circulated into the forum through this daily communication. Always seeking ideas for more targeted supports.
MOVING FORWARD, THESE CALLS WILL BE ONCE A WEEK ON THURSDAY, 7:30 – 8:15AM.
DEED, Steve Grove
- Reengaging with retail operations on curbside delivery and pick-up, announcement last Thursday.
- Eager to get revenue streams opened up. Announcement was a turn on the dial to open up more of the economy, following guidance from retail associations re moving in stages, starting with this.
- Similar to previous loosening of restrictions the week before, came with guidance on how to get it right. template form can be used to create plans… employer and customer safety issues, distributed and posted. No need to submit to state govt, is simply best practices and ask that everyone prepare one.
- Process is going well, hearing good feedback from retailers.
- We appreciate the feedback and guidance we are getting about how to get this right.
- To further shape the contours: prevailing challenge is safety, but it’s also about consumer confidence. We want to be sure both employees AND customers feel safe coming back, entering a store… psychological safety and belief, even when health metrics remain challenging.
- Full scale outreach effort across the state. Reopening is different between all types of organizations, variables that are just different. Seeking consultation, led by business community and labor leaders, to be specific where needed and more general where more convenient, and thoughtful all the way through.
Commerce, Steve Kelley
- Morning paper, PUC is looking at the effects on electric utilities, esp the pandemic and the number of their customers who might fall into arrearages in payments. Dept is actively involved in proceedings with PUC to understand those effects on the utilities and what that might mean for future rate increases – if any. Ongoing challenge.
- This at the same time utilities are seeing a decline in demand for electricity as businesses have been shut down during the SAH order.
- Also working to protect against the effect of arrearages by expanding federally funded benefits for low income residential customers through our Energy Assistance Program. Dramatically increased availability of crisis benefits, making it easier to access. Working well across the state.
- Developing issue: you may want to weigh in… early on in pandemic, dept and Dept of Health worked with health insurers so they would agree to not impose co-pays or deductibles, in other words cost sharing, on insureds for COVID-19 testing and treatment. As we move towards getting people back to work, the question of antibody testing or surveillance testing of people who are coming back to the workplace to determine whether they have the antibodies for COVID-19 raises new questions for health insurers in terms of what tests should be covered. No resolution on that, but dept is engaged with national discussions as well as Minnesota discussion about how to approach that. Some of you may have views on that, as customers, and dept would be happy to hear from you on your perspective on those costs.
- As more businesses have seen OSHA Consultation as a resource, they’re being contacted about development of preparedness plans. Becoming apparent that businesses are taking this seriously and want to get that right.
- I spoke to one employer in particular to see how they are thinking through the process… the ideas and plans they were preparing is very good and it was clear they are taking this very seriously. Employing very specific details.
- Preparedness plan we are in the process of translating. Took longer than we’d hoped, should be up on the website shortly in a few more languages.
- Tracking work comp cl;aims as they come in. over 300 so far. Don’t know if they are being denied, 300 are coded as COVIDC-19 claims and we continue to track that # to determine the impact.
Revenue, Joanna Bayers
- Filling in for Asst Commissioner Doty.
- Focus last week based on updated budget released by MMB on Tuesday, degerming what that means.
- Focusing on federal related COVID legislation, to determine impact on MN tax code, ensuring all are remaining updated for next filing season.
- For Commerce: I spoke to someone who is testing for a RE license. Your website doesn’t provide the information on how and where to do this. where do we go for that information? And are folks who have completed proctor exam getting provisional licenses? Kelley: we had our in-person testing vendor, Pearson Vue, shut down all its in-person testing sites. Presented temp challenges. On insurance side, provided for temp licenses and have granted 24 such licenses thus far, without completing the testing or finger print process. On real estate side, may need more information. Our approach has been to delay renewals for existing licenses and, if you have questions about that and it’s not visible, call the dept and I will follow up with my team after this call.
Last week, McDonald from SBA, didn’t get to all the questions. Here is some follow up:
- How will SBA guarantee a small business gets support they need, and large corps don’t overtake the system? Answer: PPP has 2 pools, $30B each. For smaller lenders including CDFIs. Disallows robotic processing, slows down system and makes difficult for smaller lenders to get approved. On wed evening, small lenders – under $1B assets, given sole access to the system.
- Next for SBA: PPP is for NPs. Can you explain why C6s not included? Many questions. Answer: McDonald is confirming this… is a federal question to address to your Congressional rep.
- Next: can employer with PPP loan increase a salary to equal what they were receiving PUA? Answer: forgiveness is reduced if head count declines or if salary/wages decrease. No guidance that would disallow salary increases.
- PUA, re B&Bs. As a self-employed, got denied for PUA. Can you explain why they wouldn’t be eligible? Grove: I wouldn’t think they necessarily would be ineligible. Something I don’t know about? Dannon: folks would need to be impacted by COVID but, yes, those employers are likely still closed due to COVID and due to EOs. So they should qualify. We are still finishing onboarding folks onto the PUA program, our team is still matching taxes and wage info to determine eligibility and onboarding. I would consider this a backlog. Hopefully we’ll get to the end of that by the end of next week.
- Can self-employed and indep contractors get both PPP and PUA? Dannon: yes, no prohibition on that. However, only caution is that you are going to need to report your income for PUA, so it’s possible that PPP income might be enough to make you close to whole and therefore ineligible. Go ahead and report that every week, in case – at some point – you’re not getting PP P income.
- You own a nonessential business, and you decide to remain close, will your UI rating suffer? Dannon: by the EO, we have removed the impact individuals requesting UI benefits. If, for some reason, folks are receiving federal UI benefits like PUA, also won’t impact employer impact rating. Extended that through EOY. Definitely shouldn’t impact you.
- In a county wo confirmed cases of COVID-19, we’re getting questions from resorts and outfitters about summer employees showing up soon from across the ctry. They typically are housed together. How should these arrivals be treated? Should they be quarantined to start and should they be tested? Grove: great question. Depends on what happens soon re SAH order through May 18. Resorts are making decision on staffing based on whether or not people are being encouraged to stay home. Travel and resorts/hotels still aren’t encouraged. As it relates to movement across the state, clearly testing in general for employees is something we want to ramp up quickly… increasing testing levels every day. Would like to be in the position where every business can employ testing to ensure safety. More information as testing ramps up. Right now, no guidance that a workers should quarantine upon arriving to a new county, but I would certainly ask employers to be thoughtful about that process and lean into the health screening aspects of this. involves taking temps, asking health screening questions, and practicing social distancing on the premises. That’s the best answer we can give right now; further clarity in the coming weeks as we look at May 18 and beyond. Nicole, do you have any thoughts?: I agree, with an emphasis on screening, probably the most guidance we’ve provided. If the screening is used, and EEOC does say that it’s ok to do the testing, and it won’t be in violation of discrimination laws, may be an option. Most guidance has been that employers doing screening has been working.
- As summer approaches, what are you hearing about tourism-related businesses? Water parks, bike rentals… etc. Grove: we do know outdoor settings are better to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You’ve seen actions regarding some outdoor recreation as a result of that. As we get into the weeds of critical sector analysis, this has been helpful. Nothing to announce right now, but is an active discussion – particularly as summer approaches. More guidance is coming re this and youth sports, summer camps, etc. Some outdoor activities are still harder with respecting social distancing. Will hear more in the coming weeks. We welcome advice and feedback on how to get that right.
- How does DEED determine who they’re reaching out to get feedback? How do we participate? Grove: these calls have been helpful from the beginning. Not much of a conversation live, but we are getting lots of questions and input via the form. In terms of how we’re putting together industry groups focused on business types and settings, always looking for an assn or group already existing on behalf of that group. Retailers Assn has been helpful, with the network and membership… same for – say – Hospitality Minnesota. Some groups don’t have that organizing factor, so based more on us doing research and reaching out. For any conversation we’re having, we also go beyond the assns to industry leaders. If you’re on that call and want to be involved, go to www.mn.gov.deed/safework to open survey. We’re pulling in feedback consistently. If you have a plan to share we should see, we’re getting a lot of those through email. Important to know we’re doing this across the state. Is as representative as possible. Conversations are enriching for us, and we know most sectors already have been putting together plans for some time.
- About the plans: where should businesses send plans to get them approved? Grove: to be really clear here, we aren’t vetting or reviewing opening plans. If you’re talking safety plans, can get help from www.Mn.gov.deed/safework. Build it, use it, live by it. No need to submit. Re business preparedness plans, guidance for that as well. Now at 92% of the state working. Not state govt’s plan or effective role to be vetting individual plans. We are providing smart guidance and enabling business leaders to be innovative and apply the guidance to their particular situations.
- Small business guaranteed loan program: local lenders have reported to me they have received low interest in SBEL program due to underwriting requirements. Is DEED considering streamline this process so more can take advantage? McKinnon: we don’t have an underwriting process for SBEL. All done through local lenders. They apply to us, become enrolled lenders… entire transaction is done through that lending institution.
- Would DEED consider marketing initiative to assist small local retailers to highlight safety steps to combat public fears around shopping? Opening is only half equation, if we see 80% customers being afraid to shop, we won’t be able to sustain ourselves. Grove: great and thoughtful question. Speaks to broader context, public trust and belief we are doing the right things as a state. We ARE considering that. Now, the message remains “stay at home.” We are working on future messages around safety and supporting local businesses, being cautious but confident… don’t want to conflict at this time. Also would love the help to get this message right. we can amplify through Governor’s office to spread that message so people feel we are getting this right. At this point, the comms challenge is to transition to a different set of messages.
- Hearing questions from salon owners and barbershops. Sole providers and chair renters – are they eligible for PUA? Grove: they should be. As indep contractor or self-employed, PUA is made for you. I encourage anyone in this position to engage. And you can apply on your own for those benefits.
- We heard during Senate Jobs Committee yesterday that labor organizations don’t support additional openings due to worker safety. Can you address DEED’s reaction? Grove: conversations with labor and business have been equally important. Yesterdays’ proposal from Sen Newman was broad, saying essentially “let’s reopen the economy.” We don’t think that’s the right step, is a drastic moving of the dial, far too much for us to get this right. my read was that labor agrees it’s too radical. Blissenbach re conversations with labor: I agree with what Grove just said. My understanding of the AFL’s testimony as in direct response to the bill introduced. Did outline what they believe are the worker protection steps necessary before reopening more sections of the economy. We have been in consultation, we know what those requests are, and they have laid out in response to our ask for input including the ability for workers, when sick, to stay home, including that plans be developed (not in yesterday’s bill). Those suggestions are being carefully considered, in addition to suggestions from business and healthcare communities as we try to put all the pieces together for the best way to open safely, providing workers and customer safety while allowing businesses to reopen. All taken into consideration.