MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Help is on the way for Minnesotans struggling with the economic impact of the pandemic. Gov. Tim Walz says he will sign the COVID relief bill as soon as possible. The $216 million bill passed Monday night extends unemployment benefits by 13 weeks.

It provides $90 million in grants between $10,000 and $45,000 for restaurants and bars whose business is down more than 30%. Another $112 million will go to Minnesota counties to help businesses down less than 30%. And $14 million will also go for grants for theaters and convention centers. This bill passed with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate.

As business owners celebrate the relief package, they also have questions about the future. Tomorrow, Walz is planning to announce changes to current restrictions, which are set to expire at the end of the week.

Revival owner Nick Rancone says he’s glad the state’s relief package for restaurants and bars includes grants rather than loans, but he says restaurants will still need help. He’s already permanently closed one of his restaurants and temporarily closed another.

“It feels like we’re still in crisis mode,” he said.

He hopes the federal government will offer relief and that Walz will offer a longer-term plan.

“It would be really helpful if we could get an understanding of when we can reopen or what that looks like because we need to plan ahead,” Rancone said.

Yum Kitchen and Bakery in Minnetonka is one of the restaurants that has seen business dip less than 30%. Owner Patti Soskin says ideally she hopes the numbers go down to allow for some reopening of indoor dining, but anticipates the shutdown will continue, and she will follow whatever is announced.

“The thing is for so many restaurants the profit margarine is so small so it’s that last 10% where we make profit, so we’re going to have to work harder and hopefully we will be supported as we have been by our guests,” she said. “Are we scared? Of course we’re scared. January and February, snow storms … please please please, support your local-owned restaurants. We need you right now more than ever.”

Both Revival and Yum Kitchen & Bakery have had to furlough and layoff staff since the start of the pandemic.

Kate Raddatz