Warm winter disaster relief available to MN businesses

A warm winter with very little snow has cost Minnesota businesses millions.

But in an unprecedented move, they’re now eligible for low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration under a drought disaster.

Less than a month ago, the cross-country World Cup brought 40,000 people out to Theodore Wirth Regional Park in Minneapolis and Golden Valley.

To make that happen and to keep people skiing, the Loppet Foundation had to double its snow-making budget. Now, there’s barely any snow left, so the return on that investment hasn’t been great. Keeping snow on the ground has cost the Loppet Foundation dearly this winter.

In what’s shaping up to be the least snowy season since the turn of the century — the 20th century not the 21st — executive director Claire Wilson says they’ve lost about $1 million.

"The reality is that we suffered as an organization throughout the winter in our attempt to try to provide magic and winter recreation opportunities," Wilson told FOX 9.

The slow drip of melting snow under a bridge on Monday matches the financial situation of a lot of businesses.

"It’s nice to have warm weather, but we as Minnesotans know this is not normal," said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. "It is catastrophic economically."

Under a shining sun on a 60-degree afternoon, Gov. Walz focused on dark days for winter-dependent businesses. For the first time, the federal Small Business Administration is using a drought disaster declaration to offer low-interest loans to help businesses survive.

"During this unprecedented winter, Scott’s Lawn Care has only provided one full snow plow event," said the business owner, Scott Hartmann.

He says the company did more than 20 full plow events the year before, but in 2023-24 he lost 40% of his revenue and had to lay off about the same percentage of his 37 employees. He’s hoping the federal help keeps him afloat until next winter, so he won’t be trimming anything other than lawns.

"We bought our business last summer thinking we’d have a great winter and we did not," said Karen Weium, one of three owners at Finn Sisu.

The new owners of the cross-country skiing and sauna business say they lost half their revenue this year, so they’ll apply for a loan, hoping to just slide into next winter.

Business owners can go to the small business administration’s website or call 800-659-2955 from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. CT Monday through Friday to submit applications for assistance.