Walz moves COVID-19 closures announcement to Monday, lawmakers race for relief deal

Gov. Tim Walz is delaying until Monday an announcement on extending business closures and limits on private gatherings.

Walz had initially planned to make that call on Friday. But the decision is still in the planning stages, his spokesman told FOX 9.

The governor's current order closing gyms, entertainment venues, and indoor dining at bars and restaurants is set to expire Dec. 18. Walz has not been optimistic about lifting the restrictions when asked during recent news conferences.

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Meanwhile, legislative leaders are racing to finish a COVID economic relief package before Monday's special session.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman said the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate are "very close" to a deal providing cash assistance to businesses that Walz has forced to close. But the two sides are further apart on how to extend unemployment benefits for laid-off workers, she said during a forum hosted by the law firm Fredrikson and Byron.

Hortman said the four legislative leaders -- she, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, House GOP Leader Kurt Daudt and Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent -- met Tuesday and planned to huddle again Thursday afternoon.

Daudt said Senate Republicans are trying to cap an extension at $200 million from Minnesota's unemployment trust fund, which would be enough for a five-week extension. The House GOP willing to do closer to a full 13-week extension, Daudt said. 

Republicans appear unlikely to agree to a third element being pushed by Democrats, a $500 one-time payment to about 31,000 low-income Minnesota families.