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New COVID relief hurting local restaurants as bills pile up

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COLERAINE, MN-- The latest COVID-19 relief bill Minnesota legislators passed in December has helped some restaurants financially.

But, left others like Locker Room Bar and Grill owner Ron Macke, in deep water.

"We need it now more than ever, and the system failed us," said Macke.

This latest COVID relief bill takes into account a restaurant's sales tax loss for the second and third quarters of 2020. If they lost more than 30%, they qualified for funding.

"We were closed in April and part of May, and then we were open for the whole summer," Macke said.
"We ended up at 28% and we fell 2% short of getting that funding that we really desperately need."

Previously, restaurants or bars would qualify for state funding if they lost more than 25% sales tax in any quarter of 2019.

Meanwhile, members of the Duluth Restaurant Association say the new calculations aren't very equal since they're based on a time when restaurants could be fully open.

"The unfortunate part is they are causing us so much strain right now when we just came off a 45-day shutdown," said Vice President Jason Vincent. "But basing it on numbers when we actually had people coming."

Minnesota State legislature changed the requirements so larger restaurants who weren't struggling as much wouldn't get as much funding.

Restaurant owners say it doesn't matter the size of the business; everyone is hurting.

"The size of the community, unfortunately, doesn't matter," said Vincent. "There are communities and businesses of very small and very large that is being affected."

The Minnesota Department of Revenue released the following statement in regards to the COVID relief bill:

Lawmakers in the House and Senate as well as the Governor’s office agreed on the package that included the cutoff at 30% in losses year-over-year. The legislation also provided direct funding to all of Minnesota’s 87 counties to set up local grant relief programs. Businesses that are not eligible for the direct payment can work with their county and follow the procedure established to apply for this aid. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is working with counties to disburse this money.

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Emma Quinn

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