Several small business owners called for reopening the economy during a Monday press conference at the Minnesota Capitol.
“We desire to honor our God, and our government and governor. We think we can do both. But we have no idea how to get a plan approved, to whom to submit it, or if anyone needs to or will consider it. The church needs to gather, we are more the church when we gather than at any other time. Please, Gov. Walz, help us by providing clear ways for plans to be approved and for us to meet,” said Rory Martin, pastor of the Liberty Baptist Church in Eden Prairie.
The press conference was orchestrated by leaders of the Senate Republican caucus, which announced the formation of a new COVID-19 Economic Recovery Taskforce. The new taskforce will focus on plans to safely and efficiently reopen the economy and will be chaired by Minnesota businessman Mike Vekich.
“People are scared, frustrated, anxious, impatient, tired, stressed, and hopeless. They are counting on us to get this right,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake). “I want everyone to understand their efforts at social distancing have pushed the peak out. We have enough PPE for our front-line workers, we have enough ICU beds to handle the surge, and we have the daily testing capacity to handle hotspots. We’re ready.”
Ray Herrington, the owner of several restaurants and a live theater in St. Cloud, said the state has flattened the curve as planned so now “it’s time we move on.”
“There are a lot of unemployed musicians scratching their heads,” he said. “There’s a good chance that if we’re doing something wrong, we’ll hear about it, not just from government, but from customers.”
One salon owner said his businesses can safely reopen since stylists are “trained and licensed in infection control and receive ongoing instruction in infection control.”
“A pandemic was not part of our business plan. Our employees are our family and I’m not going to do anything to put them at risk. I keep hearing salons can’t be a controlled environment and I don’t believe it,” said Andrew Hulse, owner of the 18/8 Men’s Salons in Maple Grove and Wayzata.
State Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake), who chairs the Senate Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth, said most small businesses can open “in a manner that is probably safer than many big box stores are doing right now.”
“All of us can empathize with the businesses that still haven’t been allowed to open. But empathy is not enough. Taking out government loans that need to be repaid is not enough. Extended unemployment benefits are not enough,” he said. “We owe it to these entrepreneurs to show us how they can safely and slowly reopen, and work with them to get it right.”
House Republicans announced over the weekend that they plan to block a major public infrastructure bill from being passed until Gov. Tim Walz relinquishes his emergency powers. Senate Leader Gazelka said Monday that he doesn’t support the plan, but the bonding bill must originate in the House regardless.
“The virus is real, and should not be taken lightly, but the damage to our livelihood is also real and must not be taken lightly either,” Gazelka added. “We have to have the courage to safely open more businesses and our places of worship as we continue to be vigilant against this virus.”
Watch the full press conference below:
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