Local Chambers Of Commerce and Local Governments Are Saving Mainstreet--Responding To The Pandemic With Relief And Creativity
From mandatory closures to reduced customers and increased expenses, COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on retailers and all of Minnesota's industries. At the Minnesota Retailers Association we have been inspired and impressed with the incredible support local chambers of commerce, local business associations, and their partnering local governments have been providing throughout the pandemic.
"We know today, local chamber executives and their teams are on the pandemic economic front-line, working long hours to keep businesses informed and help them prepare for what's coming next," said Minnesota Retailers Association President Bruce Nustad. "An important part of the impressive local chamber work has been their collaboration with cities and counties. And we have seen local governments step up in big, big ways in partnership with their chamber of commerce through creativity and flexibility. In many ways, through their collaborations over the years, local chambers and local government have trained for this very moment, and retailers, small businesses and the Minnesota Retailers Association are so grateful. These collaborations and resulting actions are leading the efforts to save Minnesota's mainstreets."
While federal and state relief and support initiatives are important, here are a few examples of how local chambers in partnership with local governments are making a significant difference in keeping local economies moving forward:
- Timely and critical relief funding
- Grants to help businesses stay afloat and re-open or prepare to re-open under safety protocols
- Relaxed signage regulations allowing business to better communicate with customers
- Flexibility with sidewalks, allowing the expansion of stores outdoors
- Re-open initiatives that unify the chamber and government around safe re-openings
- Letters of support for local communities highlighting local needs
- Backing of safe shopping zones, welcoming customers back
- Speeding permit processes
- Expansion of outdoor dining
- Sharing of ideas and updates
These efforts and many more represent the vital work being done by chambers of commerce, business associations and local governments. Thank you to each!
Now is a great time to support your local chamber or business association through membership!
The Minnesota Retailers Association is ready to work with the Governor and local, state, and federal elected officials on important next steps. Our success in defeating COVID-19 and restoring Minnesota’s economy depends on balancing public health & economic health.
Our plan includes:
Phase I - IMMEDIATE
- Make all organizations impacted by COVID-19 eligible for the State DEED Emergency Loan Program. Immediate eligibility should be extended to all impacted businesses as thousands more organizations have been impacted by the pandemic. Access to this bridge loan is critical while awaiting federal relief. State action required. DONE!
- Delay May 15 business property tax payments 60 days and assist impacted local governments. Delaying the property tax payment for retailers and businesses broadly impacted by COVID-19 will result in immediate relief for property owners, create more flexibility for renters, and reduce reliance on loans. State or county action required DONE! Nearly half of MN counties enacted reflief or delayed payments.
- Extend and increase funds for the Federal Paycheck Protection Program to allow more access to this critical relief fund during any sustained economic slowdown. Federal action required. DONE!
Phase 2 - SHORT TERM – when supported by public health decisions
- Open up curbside shopping and delivery so main street retailers in every Minnesota community can generate some cash flow similar to restaurants and essential businesses today. This allows businesses to meet the needs of their customers, appropriately protect and care for their customers and workers, and begin important best practice safety preparations in anticipation of reopening. State action required. DONE, opened May 4.
- Take action to expand widespread COVID-19 antibody testing and tracing critical to getting Minnesotans back to work. Testing for emergency workers and including retail workers in grocery, pharmacy and other high public contact positions should be prioritized. State action required. DONE!.
Phase 3 - MID-TERM – when supported by public health decisions
- Let stores reopen to consumers under social distancing store best practices including steps to protect workers and customers similar to what essential businesses are doing today. Best practices include social distancing reminders and markings as well as controlling store flow and occupancy. State action required. DONE, open May 18!
- Return customers’ access to businesses under a new normal with post-pandemic shifts in operations based on lessons learned. State action required. Undone.
>> Click here for a PDF version of this plan.
Shakopee retailers remove third-party gift cards from shelves amid graduation gift-giving over concerns the City ordinance conflicts with business partner agreements and raises the potential for a clerk to be cited with a misdemeanor crime
While the Shakopee Police Department has said it is not the intention of the City to issue citations this weekend, we take complying with the new law seriously. The reality is retailers were only given 11 days to implement changes and that simply isn’t enough time to train each and every employee, change point of sale systems, and re-write operating procedures to ensure the proper checks and balances exist. While retailers do check identification in some instances, there is no routine situation today where the name on a card is verified as the same on a valid government-issued identification.
Out of concern that front-line retail workers could be cited for breaking the law, a number of Shakopee retailers have removed third-party gift cards from their shelves. The last thing a retailer wants is any employee mistakenly selling a regulated card, which would be a violation of the law and be punishable as a misdemeanor.
In addition, as expressed to the Council at its May 7 meeting, the Shakopee ordinance may conflict with agreements between retailers and their business partners. Some retailers have removed cards from their shelves out of concern that the City’s action may lead to a breach of their agreements.
These cards are an important convenience to customers, especially as Minnesotans celebrate graduations and other special occasions this time of year. We hope retailers can get these cards back on their shelves soon, but the City has put some retailers in the position where that won’t happen until there is no risk to employees or liability with their business partners.
Retailers in Shakopee have taken steps to reduce fraud, including moving cards and increasing employee training. It’s unfortunate the City chose to pass this regulation as opposed to continuing to work in partnership with retailers. Our concerns remain that shoppers will take their business to a neighboring community and career criminals will use fraudulent credit cards to obtain other high-value items.
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For interviews, contact:
President, Minnesota Retailers Association