State lawmakers reach agreement on COVID relief bill, 13-week extension of unemployment benefits

Minnesota lawmakers have reached a tentative agreement on a $216 million COVID-19 relief package ahead of Monday’s special session, which will include a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits beginning on Dec. 27.

Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, said the agreement on unemployment benefits was reached Sunday night.

"I will tell you lawmakers have been working really, really hard ever since the governor decided we needed that second shutdown that has turned out to be a real challenging thing for many of our restaurtants and gyms and theaters," Baker said in an online news conference before the special session started.

The relief package includes around $100 million for bars, restaurants and health clubs, just over $100 million for county grants to local businesses and $14 million for conference centers and movie theaters.

Cash grants of up to $45,000 will be provided to restaurants and up to $150,000 for theaters. All of that business relief money must be distributed by mid-March, according to the agreement.

"Minnesotans are looking for a lifeline and although we are hoping the federal government will take the kind of action they need to and provide the kind of substantial relief that Minnesotans need," DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman said prior to the session. "We are stepping at this moment to provide a package that will help workers and businesses and families."

Checks to businesses are expected to take at least a couple of weeks to be sent.

One thing not changed in the deal: liquor laws won’t be relaxed at all.

State lawmakers head into 7th special session, focus on COVID-19 relief

Lawmakers are expected to pass the relief package Monday night and send it to Gov. Tim Walz, who has promised to quickly sign any agreement into law.

Rep. Barb Haley, R-Red Wing, said she’s also encouraging the governor again to reopen health clubs and gyms. Walz is set to announce whether he will extend the current COVID restrictions on Wednesday.