Updated: February 17, 2021 07:49 AM
Created: February 16, 2021 05:32 PM
It's been almost nine months since the riots that accompanied the civil unrest after George Floyd's death spread through Minneapolis and St. Paul. The physical scars are still clearly visible.
"Now the scene of a disaster, the burned out buildings, boarded up and broken windows and vacant lots are keeping customers away," says Allison Sharkey of the Lake Street Council in Minneapolis. She testified before the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee in support of a bill that would authorize the state to borrow $300 million in state appropriation bonds to help small businesses rebuild in Minnesota and St. Paul.
"To suddenly replace a 100-year old building with one that's more appropriate for today's needs requires additional equity that's generally far beyond what a typical small business owner can access on their own," Sharkey testified.
She says 80,000 people from around the country, along with hundreds of corporations and foundations, have donated to help Lake Street businesses. So far, the council has donated $7 million and the City of Minneapolis and other local sources have pledged $20 million more. Still, she says it's not enough.
"This bill is needed members to help rebuild and retain the existing small businesses that were impacted," says bill author Rep. Fue Lee, DFL-Minneapolis. He says under his bill $200 million would be earmarked for Minneapolis and $100 million for St. Paul.
But Republican lawmakers expressed some concerns. Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, worries about using bonding money that is usually reserved for public infrastructure projects. "I'm concerned about the future impact on bonding and the precedents we may be setting," he said.
Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, says he's concerned there aren't enough strict parameters on how the money can be used beyond businesses having to report to the Department of Employment and Economic Development about how they spend the grant money they would receive.
"I'm concerned that the bill essentially creates an open-ended fund for Minneapolis and St. Paul," Lucero said during the hearing,
The bill passed the House Capital Investment Committee and has other committee stops before it gets included in a larger bill or goes to the House floor. It could also face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.
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