Minnesota stay-home order likely to be extended, governor says

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Friday that he is likely to extend his stay-home order through the end of April, though no decision will be finalized until next week.

The order, which is currently scheduled to expire April 10, has shuttered much of the state's economy as public health officials try to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Some small business owners have grown impatient with what they see as a lack of help from the state and federal governments. 

As of April 3, the virus has killed 22 Minnesotans, while 40 people are currently in intensive care. Walz said the stay-home order has helped, but nevertheless predicted a significant increase in cases here.

"The peak will come to Minnesota. We are still early on," the governor said in televised remarks to the state Friday afternoon. "You have made it possible to push it out further, which has gained valuable time. But it will come."

As of Friday, 320,043 Minnesotans have filed for unemployment since March 16. That represents more than 10 percent of the state's overall labor force.

Bars, restaurants, theaters and other places of amusement were the first to close when Walz began making executive orders in mid-March. They've been followed by nonessential workers across several industries, including hair salons and health care employees.

The owners of local golf courses and landscaping companies have asked the Walz administration to give them an exemption, allowing them to reopen.

Walz said Friday he was considering whether to change his original executive order, adding that he was balancing the advice of public health professionals against the damage of long-term economic closures.

Frustration from some small business owners bubbled over Friday during a meeting of the state Senate's coronavirus working group.

Janet Leonard, who owns a hair salon in Burnsville, says she hasn't had income since March 16 and can't pay her bills at home or at the salon. Leonard said she had applied for a small business grant through the federal government but has heard nothing.

"There’s no follow up. There’s no way to check on progress. There’s just no answers," Leonard told senators. "You don’t even know how much money you’re applying for half the time. You just fill out the paperwork, and you sit and wait."

Mandy Wroolie, the owner of Minisota Play Cafe in Champlin, said the federal government's grants and loans would not replace her lost income after being forced to close.

"I became a business owner because never in my wildest dreams did I believe that my idea of a children’s play cafe would be considered dangerous to society and closed by an executive order for reasons outside my control," Wroolie said.

Nearly half of Minnesota workers are employed at a small business.

Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said the speed of the economic recovery depends on how long the virus shutters the economy and how many businesses go bankrupt in the meantime.

"If we see waves of bankruptcies across Minnesota, it will take months or longer for new tenants to move into that space, rehab that space, hire their workforce. That takes a long time to get the economy back to where it was before."