MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz says he will be convening a special session of the Minnesota Legislature next week in order to pass COVID-19 relief for small businesses, workers and families.

Also during the special session, which is slated for Monday, Walz intends to extend the COVID-19 peacetime emergency by another 30 days.

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“Minnesota’s small businesses and workers are bearing a large burden of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect their entire community amid restrictions that are saving lives,” said Governor Walz. “I call upon our state legislature to come together and ensure our businesses stay afloat, our workers are supported, and our families can put food on the table.”

In late November, Walz released details on an economic relief package for the state’s businesses and struggling Minnesotans. At the time, he said he’d call a special session when an agreement is final.

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For businesses, Walz says the relief package would provide direct aid to businesses through a Business Assistance Program, waive state and regulatory fees for hospitality establishments and establish an eviction moratorium so small businesses can stay in their locations.

For workers struggling to get by, the relief package would extend unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks “helping as many as 100,000 workers whose benefits currently end next month” and provide an emergency one-time payment of $500 to struggling families. There will also be cash payments to 14,000 businesses, including bars, restaurants, and fitness centers.


Hospitality Minnesota estimates as many as 150,000 jobs have been lost since the pandemic hit the state in March. Workers in those hard-hit industries are out with a new video, and a dire warning.

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The video features emotional appeals including from star restaurateur and chef JD Fratzke now unemployed.

“Please, the time to act is now. Hospitality professionals are proud, independent and entrepreneurial, we would not be asking for assistance unless this was a time of true desperation,” he said.

WCCO’s Jason DeRusha profiled Fratzke in 2017 at St. Paul’s Red River Kitchen. Fratke is now warning of what lies ahead without help.

“It opens us up to darkness. The negative impact on mental health on our Minnesota hospitality members is spreading faster than the coronavirus that caused it,” he said.

The video also warns of more closings. The downtown Minneapolis Hilton used to employ 500 people. General manager Ken Jarka says they’re down to 45 employees and are talking about suspending operations.

Grandma’s Restaurant in Duluth has also lain off hundreds.

“If we do not receive aid, I fear that the job and tax losses will be permanent. Duluth would never be the same,” general manager Matt Baumgartner said.

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While state legislators say they could vote on a relief bill in a special legislative session as soon as this Monday, they still don’t have a deal. That is also the case with federal negotiations for a greatly slimmed-down federal relief package. And all that leaves hospitality workers right were they are now, begging for help.

Esme Murphy