WILLMAR, Minn. — A Willmar, Minn., lawmaker says proposed remedies to help ease the financial strain on Minnesota businesses affected by the latest COVID-19 restrictions should be brought to the Legislature yet this year.

Rep. Dave Baker said in a news release that he’s exploring several proposals that could be addressed in the next special session in December — if not before — to help bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and other businesses affected by the latest executive orders.

"Without quick action, we could lose hundreds or thousands of the Main Street businesses that are fixtures in our communities, and provide employment for thousands of Minnesotans," said Baker, a former restaurant owner from Willmar who still owns and operates a hotel there.

His proposals include:

  • Immediately transferring unspent state or federal COVID response funding into a targeted relief program for impacted businesses and employees. The state has enacted multiple small business relief programs over the past several months that could be used to implement a targeted relief program.

  • Allowing all bars, restaurants, wineries and breweries to sell to-go alcohol in up to 64-ounce containers to prevent establishments from wasting beer or other alcohol that they have in stock currently.

  • Waiving or delaying sales tax payments.

  • Delaying loan repayment dates for businesses who received state-based or state-administered loan programs.

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Baker, a Republican, said the latest restrictions are “severe” but are a reaction to the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases that are straining hospitals and health care workers.

“Businesses are ready to do their part and will do everything they can to survive this latest challenge, but we need to do our part at the state level to help them,” said Baker, who encouraged people to “rally to support their local businesses.”

He said ordering takeout and buying gift cards for the holidays can help local businesses stay in business.