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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Estimates show small businesses employ half of all Minnesotans.

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Many of those businesses owners are painting a grim picture of the future.

Customers are sheltering at home and most stores and offices are closed — but help is on the way.

Twin Cities marketing expert Sharon Smith-Akansaya brought together a power panel via Zoom Wednesday to let small businesses know what resources are out there.

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“This is absolutely about survival,” Smith-Akansaya said. “We’ve had to close all of our restaurants and our bars. We’ve got sole proprietors, individual freelancers, everybody’s trying to figure out how are we going to survive this?”

You can apply on the Small Business Administration website for an Economic Injury Disaster Assistance Loan. The loan is for up to $2.5 million, and the first payment can be deferred for 12 months, and they can be paid back over 30 years at 3.75% interest.

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You can also apply separately for an immediate cash grant of $10,000, which does not have to be repaid.

Another SBA option is the Paycheck Protection Program, which helps businesses continue to meet their payrolls.

The second source for help is from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Among its programs is a $30 million emergency loan fund.

The panel also advises small businesses that they should apply now, even if they are not sure they will qualify. Brian McDonald, SBA acting district director, says get your application in as soon as possible.

“We have sufficient funds. It’s just a matter of first come-first serve, so the sooner you get your application in, the sooner you’re going to get served,” McDonald said.

Minnesota State Senator Bobby Joe Champion also says a special new COVID-19 legislative committee will also be looking for gaps in aid. They will also come up with new proposals to help bail out small businesses.

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Esme Murphy