Small businesses assess relief options amid COVID-19 pandemic

In the past 18 days, 320,000 Minnesotans have filed for unemployment, which equates to one-tenth of the state's total workforce.

Governor Tim Walz suggested Friday that he might extend the stay-at-home order through the end of the month. It's not the news small businesses want to hear. 

“I don’t know any small business owner that’s not concerned about their business in this massive shutdown,” said Jess Birken, who owns her own law firm.

At her law firm, she helps nonprofits around the state. Now, they’re all in need of some financial help. 

“I felt like the best way to go through it was to submit an application and see what the process was like so I could help other people go through the process,” said Birken.

Small business owners are now tasked with navigating a new world of assistance options.

“We know small businesses are most affected by this crisis, and almost half of Minnesotans work for a small business,” said Steve Grove, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

State help incudes two major programs: the small business emergency loan program and the small business loan guarantee program. Two major federal programs, however, bring out the big guns.

“State dollars are meant to bridge the gap for when federal funding will come – that’s just important for Minnesotans to recognize,” said Grove.

The SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan is one program.

“It’s a very low interest loan up to $2 million dollars, fixed terms, payments deferred for 12 months,” said Grove.

Something brand new is the Paycheck Protection Program, which would forgive the loan if employers maintain payroll.

“It provides each small business a loan of up to $10 million for payroll and other expenses,” said Grove.

It’s a lot to wade through, but Birken is advising her clients to act now.

“There’s not enough funding for every single business and nonprofit in America to have disaster relief, so I’m telling them if this is something they are thinking about pursuing, they need to get after it now,” she said.

Small businesses can apply for both state and federal assistance. 

For more information on the assistance programs, click here and here