DEED Call for Business 1/7/2021
DEED Weekly Calls
Thursday, January 7, 2021
Peter Brickwedde, Asst Commissioner of Commerce
Katherine Blauvelt, Commerce, and lead on vaccine
Robert Doty, Commissioner of Revenue
Steve Grove, Commissioner of DEED
Elizabeth Frosch, Chief of Staff, DEED
Mark Simmer, staff, DEED
Nicole Blissenbach, Asst Commissioner of DLI
Laura Olivan, MDH
Kevin McKinnon, DEED
COVID-19 Information for Businesses – Stay Safe Guidance
COVID-19 Information for Minnesotans – Covid-19 Information and Resources
Minnesota Unemployment Insurance – Minnesota Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program
Information for Businesses – A Guide for Minnesota Small Businesses Who Need Help
MN Dept. of Health
Businesses & Employers – Businesses and Employers: COVID-19
MN Dept. of Labor & Industry
COVID-19 Resources – UPDATES RELATED TO COVID-19
MN Dept. of Commerce
DEED, Steve Grove
- COVID #s have dropped, case positivity in single digits, deaths continue to be troublingly high but progress has been made. Cautious dial forward.
- As the Governor announced yesterday afternoon, we are cautiously optimistic about the state of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The sacrifices that Minnesotans have made – particularly in the business community – over the holiday season helped change the pandemic’s trajectory and saved lives. By nearly any metric, the situation has improved.
- That’s why starting next week, we’re dialing forward to allow more commercial activity in Minnesota. You can find more information in the Executive Order, guidance documents , and FAQ. Goes into effect on Monday, 1/11/2021.
- A basic overview:
- Bars and restaurants can open at 50 percent capacity, with a maximum of 150 people. Parties of no more than six people must remain six feet from other parties; bar seating is open to parties of two; reservations are required; and establishments must close by 10 p.m.
- Gym capacity remains capped at 25 percent but maximum capacity increases to 150. Machines and people should maintain 9 feet of distance. Classes increase to 25 people, assuming distancing can be observed. Everyone must be masked.
- Outdoor events and entertainment continue at 25 percent capacity, but maximum capacity increases to 250 people. Social distancing is required.
- Indoor events and entertainment – like bowling alleys, movie theaters, and museums – may open at 25 percent, or no more than 150 people. Masks required. No food service after 10 p.m.
- Youth and adult organized sports have resumed practice as of Jan. 4 and games resume Jan. 14 with spectators. Inter-region tournaments and out of state play are discouraged.
- Pools opened Jan. 4 for some activity and may now open, like gyms, at 25 percent capacity.
- Again, many more details available at staysafe.mn.gov.
- While there is much to be thankful for and hopeful about in the New Year, we must remain on guard. While we’re seeing improvement, COVID-19 remains a threat to our communities and our daily lives:
- There is still too much community spread – too many people are transmitting the virus without knowing they’re infected.
- New cases, while down, remain at a level that indicates high-risk.
- Hospitalizations and deaths are still too high.
- And we are tracking a new strain of COVID-19 that is starting to pop up in other states and could be more contagious than the strain we’ve been fighting for the past year.
- As we reopen some of these settings, we need your help to get it right. Please continue to use your platforms to encourage people to get out and engage in these settings once again, but to do so safely. Let’s get this right, together, so that we can be dialing even further forward in the future, rather than having to dial back once again.
- Thank you for everything you’re doing to help Minnesota businesses, workers, and consumers. The sacrifices you’ve made are extraordinary and your leadership continues to be a shining light of Minnesota’s response to this pandemic.
- Other general report-out from Steve
- Every 3d Thursday of the month is monthly jobs report, live at 10am. Press call at 10:30am that day, so 3d Thursday DEED calls need to be adjusted.
- Up and running with state govt aid program, thru bill passed in Dec. Dept of Revenue. DEED convention ctr/movie programs open for application. Close on 1/29/2021.
- Uptick in calls to Consumer Services Ctr over holiday period re charges for testing. Working with MDH to triage issues.
- Ww colleagues at MDH and Governors office: in IL, there have been some initial, targeted (particularly within Latino community) scams re vaccinations. If you get word about things that appear to be fraudulent relative to vaccines, Commerce and MDH can help.
- Workers Comp
- COVID claims thru 12/23 at 15,190.
- Seeing large increase in % of claims filed in a month being COVID-related.
- 74% of all workers comp claims in Dec were COVID-related. Up quite a bit. In May, was 37%. In Oct, 39%.
- Dept is providing report on these claims to Workforce Advisory Council and Legislature for next week. Part of the Presumption legislation passed last session.
- A little downtick in # of calls coming in to OSHA Compliance, though still higher than normal.
- Over 18K inquiries to Compliance, March-Dec.
- Of those, 1656 non-formal and 278 formal complaints.
- Of those, 150 COVID-related.
- OSHA has issued 144 citations resulting from COVID-related inspections. Up a bit from last report that was thru Nov.
- After EO release, important to know that there is change to format in guidance docs.
- Now we have a Universal Requirements doc that applies to all businesses where a business preparedness plan is required.
- Also, specific requirements for sector-specific.
- On the StaySafe website.
- Moving forward, will provide updates on tax filing season. Nothing yet, but stand by.
- Legislative updates as well. Session started this week. Nothing yet, but stand by.
- Business Relief Payments
- Package was signed by Governor in mid-Dec (12/16?).
- 3 traunches: 1st is direct payments thru Revenue.
- 2d is payments from DEED, movie theatres and convention centers.
- 3d is grant program through counties.
- Direct payments thru Revenue:
- Contacted businesses we believe are eligible for direct pymts on 12/31. either thru e-services acct on file for them or by U.S. Mail.
- Businesses contacted don’t need to do anything but wait for check.
- We are on track to begin disbursing payments on 1/11/2021.
- Payments will be mailed (can’t do ACH/direct deposit) to default address on your e-services account.
- Eligibility: sales tax data
- 30%+ decline in year over year sales, Apr-Sep time periods
- At least $10K sales in 2019
- Physically located in MN
- Directly impacted by EO 20-99
- Payments based on average employee counts.
- 1-20 employees = $15K
- 21-100 = $25K
- 201 – 300 = -99 $35K
- 301+ employees = $45K
- If not part of UI system but a part of Revenue system will get check for $10K.
- Remain cautiously optimistic.
- Have opened almost every sector, except large venues.
- Also heard you: to the extent possible, have tried to simplify guidance.
- Want to maximize business activity/restore jobs while putting in place general precautions to limit spread, esp with community spread #s still too high at 36%.
- Social gatherings sizes haven’t changed: 10 people/2 households indoors, 15 people/3 households outdoors
- New rules for celebrations and private parties. Go to the website for details.
Guest Speaker: Katherine Blauvelt
- Initial supply of vaccines is limited.
- Focusing on immunizing for impact: most likely, most at risk.
- Phase 1: Starting with health care and congregate living.
- The rest of us must be patient, several months.
- Fed govt allocates vaccines to the state.
- Phase 1B:
- On 12/20, we learned of Federal Phase 1B prioritization
- Now being reviewed by COVID-19 Allocation and Advisory Group. Will make recommendations to MDH about how to apply guidelines.
- Feedback portal is up for a while now. Will send out to the group. Is on MDH website.
- We have heard a lot from businesses. Feedback being given to advisory committee and MDH.
- Advisory Group is looking at data on outbreaks, broad perspectives on health impacts.
- Anticipate this will begin in Feb. will need to further refine categories of workers.
- Sectors in 1B include mfg, food and ag… need to connect with the sectors to help refine definitions.
- Looking at safe and equitable delivery.
- Trove of information on COVID-19 site.
1. Revenue: have checks been sent to restaurants? Can cities/counties get list of recipients, can DEED/MDH provide list of businesses who submitted sales tax returns? If left out, counties would like to assist them. Doty: unfortunately, by law, not allowed to provide that info directly to counties wo consent of the businesses. That info is considered taxpayer data and is private. We have been ww the counties to come up with a workaround for that. Consists of businesses signing a consent form that resides on our website. “Revenue 185 Form” that gives Revenue permission to release the data to the counties. Counties can use that at their discretion.
2. Revenue: many taxpayers are unaware that MN must take action to conform to federal tax law. No federal tax on forgiven PPP loans will see MN taxes on those same loans. Conformity bill would be a lifeline. Will the Administration/Revenue support an early tax conformity bill to provide certainty/relief to taxpayers? Doty: we are very open if the legislature wants to move forward with a conformity bill. Big issue is about the cost of conformity. For some issues, at this point we are 1-2 cycles behind the federal govt so the cost is even more. Necessitates us moving forward. I can’t say yes or now to that question. Is a hot topic, one we are working on – closely with Gov ofc and Legislature re how best to land relative to conformity. Early, before filing, or later, after filing.
3. DLI: I heard an employer say no longer COVID sick leave. True? What does it look like in 2021 from employer perspective. Blissenbach: FFCRA and Emergency Paid Sick Leave and expanded FMLA. That leave did, in fact, expire on 12/31. Prior to 12/31, there was mandate for certain employers to provide emergency paid sick leave for qualifying reasons and expanded FMLA. That mandate has expired. What was extended: ability for employers who choose to provide that COVID leave to continue to get the refundable tax credits that reimburse them for part of the costs of providing that leave. In some situations, businesses that continue to provide to employees can recoup costs. Information on IRS website related to those tax credits. “FFCRA Tax Credits.”
4. Reopening businesses: can you clarify event guidelines. Event in a public park, not a drive-thru, what is allowed? Olivan: planned gathering will be subject to Outdoor Entertainment guidance: 25%, up to 250 people. Still required to maintain social distancing, and if any food then the restaurant guidance applies re seating. People can go to MDH website to see business guidance. www.staysafemn.gov.
5. Business relief funding, eligibility list: rural MN convention center relief grant. None eligible in GreaterMN except public entities. What about hotels with conference centers? Grove: when legislators and Gov ofc crafted legislation, primary was speed. Which is entity to run point on any given funding stream… counties have a lot of flexibility for use. Re convention ctrs/movie theaters ending up at DEED… they were clearly hurting so significantly, and enough comparability and enough clear role for state to be effective and efficient. Focused on the larger ones, because state has reasonable role to play given their regional role. And movie theaters, is a clear formulaic approach relative to size. So able to move quickly. Re hotel or arts centers that hold events, also deserving of funding but logic was that counties would be in better position to providing funding to them. More variability within that group of entities. Not perfect, but intended to drive expediency, fairness, transparency.
6. What are rules for funerals at this time? Olivan: for all ceremonies, rules are distinct. The funeral itself is limited by venue operating at 50%. Gathering after ceremony: event limitations or “celebration” limitations apply, depending on the nature of what happens after the ceremony. If no food/drink, then just venue limitations. Don’t want to put limits on religious/other ceremonies except for 50% of occupancy.
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