COVID-19 Information, Updates, Links & Resources
We are going through an unprecedented disruption together. The Sauk Centre Area Chamber of Commerce understands there are a lot of questions and concerns and will assist to provide information and support wherever possible. We have been tested before in different ways, and have emerged stronger. As things continue to unfold, we will continue to keep you informed. We're here to serve our businesses and members during the turmoil. We have reliable and timely information:
Getting Back to Business
Every business must have a “Safety Plan” in place to be open and working. This plan doesn’t need to be submitted to the state as of now, but it is required that you have one and that it is shared with your staff and displayed for patrons. I have included some tools to help you develop your plan, let’s be ready to open and together we can start the recovery process!
Sauk Centre Chamber of Commerce – Back-to-Business Tool Kit - A quick and comprehensive list of graphics and information that you can print and customize, including local resources and links. Pages 9 thru 13 include some high resolution printable (8.5x11 paper) posters that you can print and fill in the blank to display and use as part of your safety plan.
MN Chamber Best Practices - A brief outline with great information on developing YOUR plan. Including links and information from OSHA and CDC
Stearns County COVID testing Flyer - Due to an increase in cases in Stearns Co, we have been asked to circulate this flyer as a notice reminding people when to get tested and the CentraCare Connect Hotline number. Another good resource to print and display in the workplace or circulate by email to staff.
Governor Walz’s Emergency Executive Order 20-56 - Read the details regarding the recent Executive Order and how it applies to you and your business.
COVID-19 - Providing Our Businesses and Community Info, Support, & Updates
PLEASE NOTE: Info below is being updated daily. However, to make it easier to find all financial relief options in one place click here for a full list of resources. Thank you!
Small Business Support:
Low Interest Loans from the SBA:
3/12/2020: The President announced loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA) on 3/12/2020. Here is the link to Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources (SBA) that gives some highlights on this program.
3/21/2020: On the evening of 3/21/2020 Minnesota was granted an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration. This is good news as it enables small businesses access to the SBA loan program. Now, the online application portal for these loans are open to MN businesses! Click HERE.
Federal Response: Congress acted late last week (March 14th, 2020) to pass legislation to support businesses and families affected by the disruption. Here is a great overview by the US Chamber which breaks down what is included.
Keeping Workplaces Safe & Healthy: Follow best practices for workplace safety to limit exposure and transmission. This includes encouraging "social distancing," limiting travel and event with more than 50 people and ensuring workplace cleanliness. Ensure that employees who feel sick stay home to work remotely and/or seek medical attention.
Consideration for employers & employees: Review and adapt existing business mitigation and disaster recovery plans. Review leave policies and technology capacity to accommodate remote working for employees when feasible. Communicate leave policies with employees, including whether they would use PTO in cases of self-quarantine.
- MN Dept. of Employment & Econ. Development (DEED): Information and Resources for Employers including workplace health & safety, if you need to reduce workers’ hours, layoffs, small business needing assistance resources.
- CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses & Employers: CDC will update this link will be the most up-to-date information
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) guide for preparing workplaces: Answers to how businesses prepare, what do employers & employees need to know.
- UIMN’s Shared Work Program: Providing information on what the program is and how it works. Employers experiencing a slowdown in their businesses or services as a result of the coronavirus impact on the economy may apply for the Unemployment Insurance Shared Work Program. This program allows employers to seek an alternative to layoffs - retaining their trained employees by reducing their hours and wages that can be partially offset with UI benefits.
Regarding Restaurants, Bars, and Other Hospitality Closures (3/16/2020):
DEED COVID-19 UPDATE:
3/16/2020: In order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Governor Walz today has announced the temporary closure of Minnesota restaurants and bars to dine-in customers as well as the closure of other places of public accommodation and amusement. This order is effective March 17th at 5:00pm until March 27 at 5:00pm. The closures will be evaluated at the end of this 10-day period.
The Governor also issued an executive order to help ensure that workers who are not able to work as a result of COVID-19 have benefits available. If you are unemployed or have your hours reduced, please apply for unemployment benefits by going online to uimn.org. The website can accept applications Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Please apply on the website to ensure the most efficient processing of applications during this unprecedented situation.
3/17/2020 Update: Hair salons, nail salons, and other spa-like businesses are included in the Governor's Executive Order yesterday and should be closed by 5 pm today through 5 pm on Friday, March 27. More info can be found on the Minnesota Board of Cosmetology website.
- Information for people who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut because of COVID-19.
- Information for Employers to help you find employer-focused COVID-19 related information that is updated regularly on this page
You can find out more about the actions taken today on the
UPDATE AS OF 3/21/2020: DEED Creating Emergency Loan Program for Minnesota Small Businesses
Governor Walz's executive order 20-15, you can find out more about this executive order here. The order does a few things:
First, it directs DEED to create a Small Business Emergency Loan Program by making available $30 million from special revenue funds. These dollars will be used by DEED’s lender network to make loans of between $2,500 and $35,000 for qualifying small businesses. The loans will be 50% forgivable, and offered at a 0% interest rate. These emergency loans will be made by an existing network of lenders DEED works with across the state. DEED expects loan applications will available later this week through our lender network. Notably, we are asking all small business who need loans to apply with the SBA as well, to ensure we’re taking advantage of all the federal dollars available for Minnesota businesses.
Applications will open up later this week. For more information on the specifics, please visit our COVID-19 hub for businesses.
Second, effective immediately, any local unit of government or lending partner that has revolving loan funds that were provided by the State Minnesota Investment Fund program appropriations, or Minnesota Investment Fund Disaster program appropriations, may over the next 90 days issue loans to retail and service providers. Full State guidelines for the use of these funds can be found at the Minnesota Investment Fund page. Local units of government must also follow their individual revolving loan fund guidelines. To determine if funds are available near you, please contact your local government directly.
NOTE: Sauk Centre Area Chamber will update this information as soon as the loan portals are open, and when we have more info from our local government regarding the localoptions.
This afternoon Governor Walz issued Stay at Home Executive Order 20-20, effective midnight Friday, 3/27/2020 at 11:59pm. This will be in place for two weeks until April 10th, however this could be extended by his direction. Issuing the Executive Order directing Minnesotans to stay at home and limit movements outside of their homes beyond essentials needs during these two weeks.
- All industries previously affected by the closures from Executive Order 20-04 and 20-08 has been extended through May 1st, 5:00pm. (Due to this being an extension of Executive Order, bars & restaurants can continue carry-out/delivery services.)
- E-learning from March 30- May 4
- Essential services are listed as (but not limited to, see link below for entire list):
- Healthcare and Public Health
- Law Enforcement, Public Safety, and First Responders
- Child Care
- Food and Agriculture
- Public Works
- Financial Services
- Waste, Water
- Critical Manufacturing
- Community-Based Essential Functions and Government Operations
- Hazardous Materials
- Communication and Information Technology
Governor Walz reveals framework for safely returning to work.
Today, Governor Tim Walz reviewed a framework for evaluating when it is safe to reopen a variety of workplace, social, and educational environments in Minnesota. That framework takes into consideration a number of health, economic, and social factors – and applies them to a variety of settings that have varying levels of predictability and size considerations.
As part of that framework, he issued Executive Order 20-40, which provides a limited first step in the process of safely returning to work, beginning only with workers at non-Critical Sector industrial, manufacturing and office-based businesses that are non-customer facing.
There are 2.6 million Minnesotans working right now. EO 20-40, developed in consultation with thousands of business leaders, labor leaders, and public health experts, will allow around 20,000 businesses and roughly 80,000 – 100,000 workers to go back to work beginning on Monday, April 27.
In order to reopen, EO 20-40 requires these business to do three things:
- Create and share with their employees a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that explains the actions they are taking to ensure social distancing and keep workers safe. The Department of Labor and Industry has created a template plan, which is optional for businesses to use as a starting point.
- Engage in health screening of employees each day at arrival
- Continue to use telework whenever possible
DEED will also be hosting two webinars on EO 20-40 with presenters who will talk through the process of returning workers in industrial and office-based business back to work. Join the conversation here at the following dates and times:
- Thursday, April 23 from 4 - 5:00 p.m.
- Friday, April 24 from 11:30am - 12:30 p.m.
For now, the Stay at Home order remains in place through May 3, and we should all continue to limit travel to essential needs only. We have made progress on slowing the spread of COVID-19, and we need to continue to practice social distancing to save lives.
We are continuing to listen to feedback from businesses and workers about how to implement social distancing practices in their workplaces – and if you have ideas, we encourage you to submit them here.
For more information about EO 20-40, including what it means for businesses and workers and a number of FAQs and additional information, please visit https://mn.gov/deed/newscenter/covid/safework/. We’ll continue to update that site with content and information you need to know.
Impacted Employee Support:
COVID-19 and Unemployment Benefits
On March 16, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order to ensure workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have full access to unemployment benefits. The executive order makes applicants eligible for unemployment benefits if:
- A healthcare professional or health authority recommended or ordered them to avoid contact with others.
- They have been ordered not to come to their workplace due to an outbreak of a communicable disease.
- They have received notification from a school district, daycare, or other childcare provider that either classes are canceled or the applicant’s ordinary childcare is unavailable, provided that the applicant made reasonable effort to obtain other childcare and requested time off or other accommodation from the employer and no reasonable accommodation was available.
Governor Walz’s executive order waives the nonpayable or “waiting” week to ensure applicants have access to unemployment benefits as quickly as possible.
While all applicants for unemployment benefits must actively seek suitable employment, Governor Walz’s executive order stipulates that you may look for suitable work that does not pose a risk to your health or the health of others. If you have only been laid off temporarily, you can meet work search requirements by staying in contact with your current employer.
Finally, Governor Walz’s executive order waives the ordinary five-week benefit limitation for business owners who have become unemployed as a result of COVID-19.
If your employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to apply for unemployment benefits online. Cick HERE for the link with all the details including what happens after you apply and more. Applicants are encouraged to apply online.
A Message From The MN Department of Revenue:
As Minnesota responds to COVID-19, we want to reassure you that the Minnesota Department of Revenue remains open and ready to help with tax-related services. MN Dept. of Revenue COVID-19 Resource Page
Revenue's top priority is the health and safety of our customers and employees. That means that we are modifying some of the services we offer:
- MN Dept. of Revenue COVID-19 Resource Page to find updates regarding income, business, and property tax updates, as well as relief options.
- We are following guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
- You can securely drop off tax returns and payments outside our St. Paul office without face-to-face interaction. Please put all materials in a sealed envelope.
- Free income tax preparation sites acorss the state have been closed to help stop the spread of of COVID-19.
Has the income tax deadline changed?
The deadline to file is extended to July 15th, 2020, for taxpayers to file and pay 2019 MN Individual Income Tax without penalty and interest.
- This does not include: Estimated tax payments for MN income tax due April 15 for the 2020 tax year.
- This does not include Corporation Franchise, S Corporation, Partnership, or Fiduciary taxes, though these taxpayers can receive an automatic filing extension. See the MN Dept. of Rev link above for more details.
What if COVID-19 impacts my ability to file and pay my taxes on time?
Under Minnesota Statute, taxpayers have the ability to request an abatement of any penalty or interest imposed for failing to timely file a return or failing to timely pay a tax for good cause. If you are unable to file and pay on time because of COVID-19 illness or related situation, please contact the department.
Are free tax preparation services affected?
To help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota, some free income tax preparation sites have suspended services. Please contact the site for updated hours of operation.
You may be eligible to file your return electronically for free. View our list of providers to see if you qualify.
Who can I contact with questions?
If you have questions, call us at 651-556-3000 or 1-800-657-3666, or use our email form.
Thank you for your understanding and patience as we move through this unique situation together.
Regarding Filing & Paying Sales and Use Tax (updated 3/18/2020): In line with the state’s continued response to COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Revenue is granting a 30-day Sales and Use Tax grace period for businesses identified in Executive Order 20-04. During this time the department will not assess penalties or interest.
Identified businesses with a monthly Sales and Use Tax payment due March 20, 2020, will have until April 20 to make that payment. These customers should still file their return by March 20. At this time, this grace period for penalty and interest is only for monthly filers and only for the March 20 payment. Identified businesses can request additional relief from penalty and interest for reasonable cause after April 20.
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional information and guidance.
If you have questions or wish to request additional time, please contact the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
Phone: 651-296-6181 or 800-657-3777
Healthcare Information & Updates:
CentraCare: Effective immediately, we are no longer allowing visitors at CentraCare hospitals, long-term care facilities, senior housing, hospital outpatient departments, ambulatory surgery centers, and sites where individuals are housed in large numbers. After careful consideration, we made this difficult choice because our top priority must be the safety of our patients, staff and communities. Visitors impacted by this policy include patient family and friends, students, volunteers and non-essential contracted vendors. Exceptions will be made for patient/resident family members under special circumstances.
UPDATE AS OF 3/24/2020: CentraCare Quick Clinic locations will be closed until further notice. To reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support local grocery stores, CentraCare quickClinic locations are closed until further notice. This change became effective March 24. This action benefits grocery store workers and supports the entire community in maintaining a safe shopping environment. The closure of CentraCare quickClinics will result in fewer people visiting the grocery store, especially when they are sick.
All CentraCare facilities are making every effort to ensure safety and reduce the risk of infection.
For those who have symptoms of respiratory illness and those who need immediate care for other reasons, please do one of the following:
- Visit CentraCare eClinic for online, phone or video visit, 24/7; COVID-19 screening is FREE.
- Call CentraCare Connect at 320-200-3200 to speak with a nurse, 24/7
This will ensure that you will be directed to the correct place for care.
CentraCare is dedicated to the continued care of all patients who are experiencing a broad range of urgent/emergent care needs. The health and safety of each and every patient continues to be a priority.
- CentraCare COVID-19 Resource Page: CentraCare COVID-19 website, here you will find links to CDC, Curbside Collection instructions, symptoms, frequently asked questions and more.
- Center for Disease Control (CDC) Resource Page
- Governor Walz Executive Orders
- MN Department of Health Sick Leave Guidance: Please note that it is recommended that employers NOT require a doctor's note to miss work OR return to work due to the overwhelming demand on healthcare at this time.
- MDH Social Distancing Guidelines
- Stearns County Liason: future questions or concerns related to COVID-19 response can be directed to EOC.Liaison@co.stearns.mn.us or 320-650-5816.
Stimulus 3.0 - Federal CARES Act: Key Provisions Impacting Employers
Late in the evening on March 25, the U.S. Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The House is expected to take up the bill Friday, and President Trump has indicated he will sign. This will be the third bill passed by Congress in response to COVID-19. This bill provides significant resources to businesses and individuals alike to weather this crisis. Greater Mankato Growth has compiled a summary of the key provisions in the bill impacting businesses – of which there are many. Greater Mankato graciously shared their document with many chamber executives and we are sharing it here for you too. This may be overwhelming, but know that more resources will be coming soon to assist you as the law is implemented and Sauk Centre Area Chamber will be here every step of the way to ensure you are kept informed with timely and accurate information.
Paycheck Protection Program
Creates the Paycheck Protection Program which will provide nearly $350 billion for 8 weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to small employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If the employer maintains its payroll, then the portion of the loan used for covered payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be forgiven, which would help workers to remain employed and affected small businesses and our economy to recover quickly from this crisis. This proposal would be retroactive to February 15, 2020 to help bring workers who may have already been laid off back onto payrolls.
- Small employers with 500 employees or fewer, as well as those that meet the current Small Business Administration (SBA) size standards; Self-employed individuals and “gig economy” individuals; and certain nonprofits.
- The size of the loans would equal 250 percent of an employer’s average monthly payroll. The maximum loan amount would be $10 million.
- Covered payroll costs include salary, wages, and payment of cash tips (up to an annual rate of pay of $100,000); employee group health care benefits, including insurance premiums; retirement contributions; and covered leave.
- The cost of participation in the program would be reduced for both borrowers and lenders by providing fee waivers, an automatic deferment of payments for one year, and no prepayment penalties.
- Waives the credit elsewhere test and collateral and personal guarantee requirements for funds provided under this program.
- Loans would be available immediately through more than 800 existing SBA-certified lenders, including banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions, and SBA would be required to streamline the process to bring additional lenders into the program.
- It allows a borrower who has an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) related to COVID-19 to apply for a paycheck protection loan, with an option to refinance that loan into the paycheck protection loan. However, the emergency EIDL grant award of up to $10,000 (see below section) would be subtracted from the amount forgiven under the Paycheck Protection Program.
- The maximum loan amount for SBA Express loans would be increased from $350,000 to $1 million. Express loans provide borrowers with revolving lines of credit for working capital purposes.
- The bill would provide $265 million for grants to SBA resource partners, including Small Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Centers, to offer counseling, training, and related assistance to small businesses affected by COVID-19.
- $10 million would be provided for the Minority Business Development Agency to provide these services through Minority Business Centers and Minority Chambers of Commerce.
- The bill would expand eligibility for entities (including cooperatives, ESOPs under 500 employees, and sole proprietors and independent contractors), suffering economic harm due to COVID-19 to access SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).
- SBA is granted more flexibility to process and disperse small dollar loans, including waiving any personal guarantee on advances and loans below $200,000, the requirement that an applicant needs to have been in business for the 1-year period before the disaster, and the credit elsewhere requirement.
- The bill would allow businesses that apply for an EIDL expedited access to capital through an Emergency Grant—an advance of $10,000 within three days to maintain payroll, provide paid sick leave, and to service other debt obligations. This emergency grant would not be required to be paid back.
- $10 billion would be provided to support the expanded EIDL program.
- The bill would require SBA to pay all principal, interest, and fees on all existing SBA loan products, including 7(a), Community Advantage, 504, and Microloan programs, for six months to provide relief to small businesses negatively affected by COVID-19.
- $17 billion would be provided to implement this section.
- Creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to provide payment to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus.
- Provides an additional $600 per week payment to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for up to four months.
- Provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits through to help those who remain unemployed after weeks of state unemployment benefits are no longer available.
- All U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 married) are eligible for a $1,200 ($2,400 married) rebate. In addition, they are eligible for an additional $500 per child. For the vast majority of Americans, no action on their part will be required in order to receive a rebate check as IRS will use a taxpayer’s 2019 tax return if filed, or in the alternative their 2018 return.
- Provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50 percent of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 crisis. The credit is available to employers whose (1) operations were fully or partially suspended, due to a COVID-19-related shut-down order, or (2) gross receipts declined by more than 50 percent when compared to the same quarter in the prior year.
- The credit is based on qualified wages paid to the employee. For employers with greater than 100 full-time employees, qualified wages are wages paid to employees when they are not providing services due to the COVID-19-related circumstances described above. For eligible employers with 100 or fewer full-time employees, all employee wages qualify for the credit, whether the employer is open for business or subject to a shut-down order. The credit is provided for the first $10,000 of compensation, including health benefits, paid to an eligible employee. The credit is provided for wages paid or incurred from March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
- Allows employers and self-employed individuals to defer payment of the employer share of the Social Security tax they otherwise are responsible for paying to the federal government with respect to their employees. Employers generally are responsible for paying a 6.2-percent Social Security tax on employee wages. The provision requires that the deferred employment tax be paid over the following two years, with half of the amount required to be paid by December 31, 2021 and the other half by December 31, 2022.
- Relaxes the limitations on a company’s use of losses. Net operating losses (NOL) are currently subject to a taxable-income limitation, and they cannot be carried back to reduce income in a prior tax year. The provision provides that an NOL arising in a tax year beginning in 2018, 2019, or 2020 can be carried back five years. The provision also temporarily removes the taxable income limitation to allow an NOL to fully offset income. These changes will allow companies to utilize losses and amend prior year returns, which will provide critical cash flow and liquidity during the COVID-19 emergency.
- Modifies the loss limitation applicable to pass-through businesses and sole proprietors, so they can utilize excess business losses and access critical cash flow to maintain operations and payroll for their employees.
- Temporarily increases the amount of interest expense businesses are allowed to deduct on their tax returns, by increasing the 30-percent limitation to 50 percent of taxable income (with adjustments) for 2019 and 2020. As businesses look to weather the storm of the current crisis, this provision will allow them to increase liquidity with a reduced cost of capital, so that they are able to continue operations and keep employees on payroll.
- Enables businesses, especially in the hospitality industry, to write off immediately costs associated with improving facilities instead of having to depreciate those improvements over the 39-year life of the building. The provision, which corrects an error in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, not only increases companies’ access to cash flow by allowing them to amend a prior year return, but also incentivizes them to continue to invest in improvements as the country recovers from the COVID-19 emergency.
- Allows an employee who was laid off by an employer March 1, 2020, or later to have access to the new federal paid family and medical leave programs if they are rehired by the employer. Employee would have had to work for the employer at least 30 days prior to being laid off.
- $3.5 billion in grants to states for immediate assistance to child care providers to prevent them from going out of business and to otherwise support child care for families, including for healthcare workers, first responders, and others playing critical roles during this crisis.
- Provides $500 billion to Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund to provide loans, loan guarantees, and other investments largely to large employers (500 plus) not otherwise covered in the bill.
- Provides $1.5 billion for economic adjustment assistance to help revitalize local communities after the pandemic. EDA assistance can be used to help rebuild impacted industries such as tourism or manufacturing supply chains, capitalize local funds to provide low-interest loans to businesses of all sizes, and support other locally-identified priorities for economic recovery.