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Minnesota COVID-19 Update April 8, 2020

Posted: 04/08/2020

This update provides a quick-reference summary of major Minnesota state and local government actions taken in response to the novel COVID-19 outbreak that may be pertinent to Minnesota clients’ business operations. We will seek to update the summary for major events as the state and local response unfolds.

​We have divided this summary into the following broad categories: (i) Stay-at-Home Order; (ii) unemployment benefits and employment; (iii) restaurants, bars, and other public accommodations; (iv) other Minnesota actions; and (v) more to come.

I. STAY-AT-HOME ORDER

  • On March 25, Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order, which requires Minnesotans to stay at home for two weeks (the “Stay Order”), effective from March 27 until midnight on April 10, in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.[1] Governor Walz has intimated that he will likely extend the Stay Order through April 30, 2020, consistent with action taken by President Trump on the federal level.[2]
  • The Stay Order requires most Minnesotans to limit their movement and travel during this period, except for those engaging in certain “essential” activities.
  • What’s Allowed? The Order allows all individuals to do the following: to engage in work deemed to be in a “Critical Sectors”; care for others or seek shelter; relocate for safety; seek medical care; engage in outdoor recreational activities as long as social distancing measures are employed; obtain necessary supplies or services (food, beverages, gasoline, work supplies); and travel in order to engage in essential activities.
  • What Are “Critical Sectors”? The Stay Order defines critical sectors by stating the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)’s classifications of sixteen (16) critical infrastructure sectors and then adding additional sectors specific to Minnesota’s Stay Order. The full list of industry sectors deemed “critical” and therefore exempt from the Stay Order are:
    • Healthcare and public health
    • Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders
    • Food and agriculture
    • Energy
    • Water and wastewater
    • Transportation and logistics
    • Public works
    • Communications and information technology
    • Community-based government operations and essential functions
    • Critical manufacturing
    • Hazardous materials
    • Financial services
    • Chemical
    • Defense industrial base
    • Tribal Governments
    • The Judicial Branch
    • The Executive Branch
    • Executive Constitutional Offices
    • The Legislative Branch
    • Federal Employees
    • National Guard
    • Faith leaders and workers
    • Education
    • Construction and critical trades
    • Child care providers
    • Hotels, residential facilities and shelters
    • Shelters for displaced individuals
    • Charitable and social services organizations
    • Legal services
    • Notaries
    • Critical Labor Union Functions
    • Laundry services
    • Animal shelters and veterinarians
    • Real Estate Transactions
    • Essential Supply Stores

The Stay Order does not restrict virtual work or telework (i.e. work from home) for employees in non-essential or critical sectors.

II. UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS AND EMPLOYMENT

Consistent with recently announced federal guidance,[3] on March 22, Governor Walz announced several changes to unemployment benefits in Minnesota, including:[4]

  • The following individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits in addition to those who were previously eligible:
    • individuals whose employment is terminated or who become underemployed as a result of COVID-19;
    • individuals who are recommended or ordered to avoid contact with others by a healthcare authority or provider; and
    • individuals who are unable to work due to cancellation or unavailability of schools, daycares, or other childcare providers as long as the individual made reasonable effort to find other childcare and requested time off or other reasonable accommodation from their former employer.
  • The ordinary one-week waiting period to access benefits will be waived for benefit applications made on or after March 1, 2020.
  • The ordinary work-search requirements for individuals receiving benefits are modified such that: (1) benefit recipients are only required to search for work that does not pose a health risk to the individual or others; and (2) if the recipient is temporarily laid off, they must maintain regular contact with the employer.
  • The regular five-week benefit limitation is waived for business owners who had previously elected coverage and became unemployed due to COVID-19.
  • Unemployment benefits paid as a result of COVID-19 will not be used in computing future unemployment tax rates of a taxpaying employer.
  • Under Governor Walz’s March 27 Stay Order, employees in critical sectors are not required to carry paperwork when traveling to and from work.
  • Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth have sick and safe time ordinances that will allow time off for a number of purposes related to COVID-19:
    • The City of Minneapolis issued FAQs stating that employees may use accrued Minneapolis sick and safe leave for absences relating to COVID-19 testing, care or quarantine in the event of COVID-19 symptoms or close contact with someone with COVID-19 symptoms, caring for a family member whose ordinary care arrangements have been disrupted by the outbreak, and for workplace closures ordered by a public official.[5]
    • St. Paul’s and Duluth’s ordinances should similarly apply in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak and would allow eligible employees to use accrued benefits for their own diagnosis, care or treatment, or to obtain the same for a covered family member.[6]
  • MNOSHA issued a bulletin stating that employers have a responsibility to assure the safety of every worker, including preventing the spread of communicable diseases.[7] The bulletin also advised that employers must not retaliate against employees who contract or are exposed to COVID-19, or who miss work to care for a family member who has been exposed to or contracts COVID-19.

III. RESTAURANTS, BARS, AND OTHER PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS

  • On March 16, Governor Walz ordered restaurants, bars, event venues, and other places of public accommodation to remain closed to customers until May 1, 2020.[8] The March 27 Stay Order affirmed these restrictions previously placed on such establishments.
    • While most other establishments and venues must be closed:
      • Restaurants are allowed and encouraged to offer take-out and delivery options (as long as such methods of purveyance adhere to social distancing recommendations).
  • On March 20, 2020, Governor Walz indicated that he may be open to permitting the sale of alcoholic beverages with restaurant take-out orders.[9] No formal action has yet been taken.
  • The City of Minneapolis is waiving all licensing late fees for food, taxi, liquor, wine, beer, or catering licenses.[10]
  • Restaurants or other take-out businesses in Minneapolis may apply for a free permit to establish “Food Pickup Zones” in metered spots outside of their business.[11]
  • For businesses impacted by the closure of places of public accommodation, the Minnesota Department of Revenue is granting a 30-day Sales and Use Tax grace period during which the Department will not assess penalties or interest—payments due by March 20 have an extension until April 20, 2020 (businesses that require additional relief may request it from the Minnesota Department of Revenue (see link).[12]  

IV. OTHER MINNESOTA AND LOCAL ACTION

  • On March 20, 2020, Governor Walz ordered that no Minnesota business may sell any good for more than 20 percent of its price before the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses may be fined up to $10,000 per violation.[13]
  • Any Minnesota-based business that has less than 250 employees and has been closed due to an executive order is eligible for interest-free loans between $2,500–$35,000 through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).[14] The program will be open for up to 12 months following the declaration of a peacetime emergency on March 13, 2020.[15]
  • The Minnesota Department of Revenue has extended the income tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020 (tracking the IRS’s extended federal filing deadline).[16] The Department has not extended the filing deadline for corporation franchise, S-corporations, partnerships, or fiduciary taxes—however, such entities may qualify for an automatic extension.
  • On March 20, 2020, Governor Walz ordered that certain highway weight restrictions and hours of service for carriers and drivers of commercial motor vehicles are suspended.[17]
  • On March 20, 2020, Governor Walz ordered a moratorium on all foreclosure actions brought by mortgage holders.[18]
  • Several recent orders from Governor Walz have attempted to eliminate regulatory hurdles for several critical occupations, including actions related to certain licensed health professions,[19] motor carriers and drivers operating in Minnesota,[20] and licensed police officers, firefighters, and security positions.[21]
  • All Hennepin County government buildings are closed through April 10.[22] All Ramsey County government buildings are closed to the public through May 1, 2020.[23] Services in both counties are generally available by telephone.

V. MORE TO COME…

  • The Minnesota Legislature is in session and is expected to take action on a number of pending measures related to COVID-19.
  • Several of Governor Walz’s recent orders will likely be subject to clarification and additional rulemaking, for example:
    • DEED initially provided guidance indicating that individuals that accepted a voluntary layoff would be eligible for unemployment benefits. Now its FAQ related to “a voluntary, unpaid leave of absence due to COVID-19” states, “If you are in this situation, complete an application. We will notify you if you are eligible.”
    • It is also unclear how the State will determine when unemployment benefits were “paid as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic” to carry out the Governor’s order that these not be used in computing employers’ unemployment tax rate.

  1. Executive Order 20-20, Office of Gov. Tim Walz, https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp; see also Information and FAQ regarding the Stay Order at: https://mn.gov/governor/covid-19/
  2. “I Do Worry About That”: Gov. Walz on Border States Without “Stay at Home” Orders, Pioneer Press (Apr. 3, 2020), https://twincities.com/2020/04/03/coronavirus-mn-iowa-dakota-wisconsin-stay-home-order-shelter/.
  3. See https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20200312-0
  4. Executive Order 20-05, Office of Gov. Tim Walz, https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp; COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and Unemployment Benefits, Minn. Unemployment Ins., https://www.uimn.org/applicants/needtoknow/news-updates/covid-19.jsp.
  5. COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the Sick and Safe Time Ordinance Frequently Asked Questions, City of Minneapolis (Mar. 18, 2020), http://sicktimeinfo.minneapolismn.gov/uploads/9/6/3/1/96313024/covid-19_and_sst_3_18_20.pdf.
  6. Earned Sick and Safe Time and COVID 19 Frequently Asked Questions, City of Duluth, https://duluthmn.gov/media/9458/covid19-info.pdf.
  7. Worker Protections Related to COVID-19, MNOSHA, https://www.dli.mn.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/MN_worker_protections_related_to_COVID_19.pdf.
  8. Executive Orders 20-04, 20-18, https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp.
  9. Walz Considering Allowing Restaurants, Bars Sell Alcohol with Takeout Food Orders, Minnesota Reformer (Mar. 20, 2020), https://minnesotareformer.com/briefs/walz-considering-allowing-restaurants-bars-sell-alcohol-with-takeout-food-orders/#; Wine With Your Takeout? Minnesota Restaurants Lobbying to Sell Alcohol to Go, Star Tribune (Mar. 26, 2020), https://www.startribune.com/wine-with-your-takeout-minnesota-restaurants-want-to-sell-alcohol-to-go/569122412/.
  10. FAQs for Local Businesses, City of Minneapolis, http://www.minneapolismn.gov/coronavirus/WCMSP-223299.
  11. Id.
  12. Sales and Use Tax, Minn. Dep’t of Rev., https://www.revenue.state.mn.us/sales-and-use-tax.
  13. Executive Order 20-10, https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp.
  14. Executive Order 20-15, https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp.
  15. DEED Announces Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, Minnesota Employment & Econ. Dev’t (Mar. 30, 2020), https://mn.gov/deed/newscenter/press-releases/#/detail/appld/1/id/425536.
  16. Individual Income Tax, Minn. Dep’t of Revenue, https://www.revenue.state.mn.us/individual-income-tax.
  17. Executive Order 20-06, https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp; Executive Order 20-24, https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp.
  18. Id.
  19. Executive Order 20-23, https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp
  20. Executive Order 20-24, https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp
  21. Executive Order 20-25, https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp
  22. COVID-19 Response, Hennepin County, Minnesota, https://hennepin.us/residents/emergencies/covid-19 (last accessed Apr. 5, 2020).
  23. Coronavirus Impacts on County Services, Ramsey County, https://ramseycounty.us/covid-19-info/coronavirus-impacts-county-services (last accessed Apr. 5, 2020).
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