By Sen.Jeremy Miller
Greetings from the district,
On December 16, Governor Walz announced updates to his November executive order placing restrictions on certain businesses and activities – including bars, restaurants, gyms, and youth sports – as well as limits on social gatherings. Notably, the governor said he would allow schools to begin a rolling reopening for elementary-aged students beginning on January 18.
Here are the basics of the order:
Districts can choose to return elementary-aged students to in-person learning on January 18, regardless of the county’s case rates. Students will not all be brought back immediately; the reopening will be phased in by grade level. In addition, the order recommends social distancing, masks and face shields for school staff, students will need to wear masks, and staff will have the option of taking a COVID test every other week.
Bars and restaurants will remain closed for indoor service until at least January 10. Those businesses will be allowed to open for outdoor seating at 50% capacity, with a maximum of 100 people and no more than four to a table.
Gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity, or with a maximum of 100 people.
Youth sports will be allowed to resume practices – but not games – on January 4.
Indoor social gatherings will be permitted for up to two households and no more than 10 people; outdoor social gatherings can be three households and 15 people.
I applaud the governor for announcing a plan to reopen schools. The data is clear that in-person learning is much better for students’ development, and that schools can reopen safely. The governor’s order will allow families, educators, and school officials to plan for what comes next.
However, I am disappointed that the governor did not allow bars and restaurants to open in a safe and responsible manner. I receive feedback regularly from restaurant and bar owners and workers who have serious concerns about the future of their business. They are grateful for the bipartisan emergency assistance package we recently approved, but even that might not be enough as some of them are telling me that they aren’t sure they will be able to survive the governor’s latest shutdowns. We’re at a critical point for many of these hospitality businesses. I ask the governor to seriously and sincerely reconsider the restrictions he has placed on them. Limited outdoor seating, especially in the winter, isn’t nearly enough for these businesses.
Finally, I’m getting a lot of questions about the $217 million small business relief package that recently passed the legislature and was signed into law by the governor. Based on certain criteria, businesses who were directly impacted by Governor Walz’s Executive Orders may be eligible for an automatic direct payment from the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Additionally, businesses could also qualify for grants that will be allocated by each county throughout the state. If you have questions regarding the small business grants, please feel free to reach out to me directly, or you can contact the Minnesota Department of Revenue, or call your local county office.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your feedback is extremely important to me and I encourage you to share your input. You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my Capitol office at (651) 296-5649. It’s a great honor to serve as your State Senator.
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