Businesses warned to stay in compliance as North Dakota begins ‘Smart Restart’
BISMARCK — A warning was issued to businesses during an April 30 conference call sponsored by The Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce to discuss Gov. Doug Burgum's "North Dakota Smart Restart" protocols: If you don't comply with safety protocols designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, you could be shut down.
Department of Commerce Commissioner Michelle Kommer said the May 1 restart is voluntary for businesses, but compliance with Burgum’s safety protocols is not.
“There have been a number of questions about enforcement,” Kommer said. “If we all approach this together, we hope this will not be our chief concern; however, note that it is within the authority of the state chief health officer to close businesses if necessary. And, also, enforcement will be largely a local matter.”
The remainder of the call updated the state's progress with the $2 trillion congressional CARES Act, aimed at helping displaced businesses, employers and employees.
Al Haut, North Dakota U.S. Small Business Administration director, said $90 billion of $310 billion in the Paycheck Protection Program has already been approved, and he expects the total funds will be exhausted, although not “overnight.”
Initial Economic Injury Disaster Loan applications are still being processed, Haut said, and more funds have been appropriated to the loan program. The application portal is temporarily closed due to a backlog, he said, with 5 million applications currently in process. Application numbers beginning with a “3” are still being processed.
Bank of North Dakota President Eric Hardmeyer gave details on the COVID-19 PACE Recovery Program , through which local financial institutions provide low interest loans to support North Dakota businesses in their economic recovery due to the coronavirus.
Workforce Safety and Insurance and Job Service North Dakota Director Bryan Klipfel said unemployment insurance claims since March 16 now total 67,833. His office has completed the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, giving $600 extra dollars per week to individuals, he said, and started paying on the 9,717 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims for self-employed and gig economy workers as of April 29.
Klipfel also said Job Service North Dakota’s trust fund is down to $129.4 million and, if claims are paid at the current projected rate, the fund will be insolvent by mid-to-late June. Officials are working to secure more funding.
North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread said use of the 150,000 test kits for COVID-19 antibodies recently secured by Burgum may not be covered under health insurance programs for “simple public health surveillance” or employee screenings not found medically necessary. Only those who are told by a licensed physician that they must have the test will be covered by insurance, he said.