Gov. Walz to call special session to pass COVID-19 relief package

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says he plans to call a special session this week to pass an emergency relief package for people and businesses affected by the state’s new COVID-19 restrictions

Over the weekend, Minnesota entered a four-week dial-back phase that closed restaurants and bars, gyms and fitness centers and other entertainment venues. Walz said Monday he will unveil a relief package on Tuesday that he hopes will bridge the financial gap for those businesses and workers until the federal government passes their own version. 

“We hear you,” Walz said to those by the new restrictions. “We thank you for making a public health move. By closing your doors, you’re protecting people. By closing your doors, you’re ensuring we can get our economy back better than we had before.” 

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The governor said the relief package will do the following:  

  • Sales tax forgiveness for businesses that sell food and beverages 
  • Waive state regulatory fees
  • Explore direct relief for individual workers 
  • Offer one-time food grants to businesses to provide food to health care workers 
  • Provide help for homeless shelters and long-term care facilities
  • Create a state tax credit for food donations in the hospitality industry 
  • Eliminate the expiration date for the Minnesota COVID-19 fund 

Walz is calling on state lawmakers to pass the package immediately, but Senate Republicans confirmed to FOX 9 that this is the first they have heard of the relief package.

“COVID is not going to end at the end of the month,” Walz said. “We are in an unrelenting spike and it forces us to make the moves we’ve made.” 

“We would hope to get money out the door as soon as we possibly can, but of course, nothing is instantaneous,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler.

While Republicans weren’t given any advanced notice of the proposal Monday, Senate Majority leader Paul Gazelka said, “We will work with anyone to find solutions.”

It was welcome news to fitness studio owner Mike Jones. Jones is co-founder of Alchemy 365. Since March, revenue has dropped 60 percent and they’ve been forced to close one of seven locations.

“Anything that comes down the pipe will help us keep people employed, stay in business, so that we can actually re-open when the time comes,” said Jones.

Details of the package still need to be worked out among Republican leadership in the Senate and Democrats in the House, but the Governor said his proposal includes an extension of unemployment benefits for workers.

“Not knowing if and when things are going to come back is challenging,” said Jones. “If you want to come back to ‘normal’ and have vibrant communities, small businesses need help.”

Governor Walz is scheduled to hold a 10:30 a.m. press conference Tuesday to provide more details. Tune in to to watch the event live.