Greater Mankato Growth Blog

How To Attract and Retain Employees

Are you struggling to hire quality employees? Has the shortage of employees struck you hard? This is not going to be alleviated anytime soon. COVID-19 accelerated numerous retirements, spurred entrepreneurship, or pursuit of other opportunities while people were furloughed, and with the challenges of finding daycare, many two income homes have found a way to survive on one income, while a stay-at-home parent develops a side hustle replacing a job. And we won’t even get started on the extra unemployment income (but do you really want those employees back anyway?).

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Why Security Matters to Your Employee Benefit Plans

Employee benefit plans are a common perk for many organizations. They are often seen as a necessary employee benefit, but they also come with a strong need for compliance. Specifically, ERISA-covered group health plans and retirement plans can be subject to HIPAA privacy and security laws, assurance and audit requirements and more.

Cybersecurity is often not a focus for many organizations’ employee benefit plans. After all, what would a cybercriminal want with an employee benefit plan?

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Greater Mankato Growth Sends Letter to Governor Walz

Today, Greater Mankato Growth sent a letter to Governor Tim Walz providing statistics to create awareness of talent challenges facing our region.

The Department of Employment and Economic Development has taken great strides to ensure that individuals receiving unemployment insurance are aware of the job opportunities that exist across the state.

We asked that the State implement measures to supplement the work that is being done surrounding awareness of job availability by creating enforcement measures, while offering flexibility for those still impacted by COVID-19 considerations. You can read the full letter here.

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Governor Walz Announces Timeline to End all COVID Restrictions in Minnesota

Governor Walz announced a three-step process that will lead to an end of COVID-19 restrictions in the May 6 address. Restrictions will be loosened at noon on May 7, 2021, all capacity restrictions will end by May 28, and the masking requirement will be removed when 70% of Minnesotans ages 16+ are vaccinated or by July 1, whichever comes first. Full text of Executive Order 21-21 can be found here.

The changes announced in the May 6 address are as follows:

STEP ONE: Noon on Friday, May 7

  • Outdoor occupancy restrictions for restaurants, bars, and other places of public accommodation offering food, beverages, or tobacco products will be completely removed.
  • Indoor capacity limit per table will increase from six to ten individuals per table.
  • The closing curfew of 11:00 pm will be completely removed.
  • Food and beverage businesses with sufficient indoor space to exceed the 250 person capacity restriction will be able to exceed that as long as they remain within 75% capacity and can follow Stay Safe Minnesota Guidance.
  • Indoor public pool capacity will be set at 50%, not to exceed 250 people; however, spaces with sufficient capacity can exceed 250 people if they can follow Stay Safe Minnesota Guidance and stay within 50% capacity guidelines. All restrictions on outdoor pool areas will be removed.
  • For fitness, recreation, indoor sports facilities, and other similar facilities, the 50% capacity guidelines will continue, but only for indoor spaces within the facility. Maximum indoor capacity of 1500 for spaces capable of following Stay Safe Minnesota guidelines will be removed. Mask restrictions for these facilities will only be required indoors.
  • Indoor social gatherings will increase from 15 to 50 people.
  • Total indoor capacity for entertainment venues will be removed if they can safely exceed 250 people while remaining under 50% capacity and follow Stay Safe Minnesota guidelines. All outdoor capacity for these spaces will be removed.

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Restaurant Revitalization Fund – Be Prepared to Apply Monday at 11 a.m.

Greater Mankato Growth participated in the U.S. Small Business Administration webinar on April 28th to learn more about the Restaurant Revitalization Fund and its application process. In short, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund will allow restaurants, bars, and other similar entities (a full list of eligible entities can be found here) to receive a grant that covers all lost revenue in 2020 compared to 2019. Please note special rules apply to entities that opened after January 1, 2019 or that still haven’t opened. This blog post will first share how to apply and will then share additional details on the specifics regarding the program.

The SBA will open up the opportunity to create an account at restaurants.sba.gov this Friday at 8 a.m. Central Time by choosing “Register to start your application.” Applicants are strongly encouraged by the SBA to create their accounts on Friday and not to wait until Monday. The opportunity to submit an application will open on Monday, May 3, at 11 a.m. Central Time. The SBA holds that the website is designed to support expected traffic with all restaurants submitting applications at that time. Applicants are strongly encouraged by the SBA to submit their application at the first possible minute. Additionally, applicants are encouraged to review all documentation at the SBA’s webpage on the fund. Please note that a recording of the SBA webinar can be viewed at the end of the “How to Apply” section of this blog.

Edit: 4/29/2021 The SBA’s Restaurant Program Knowledge Database serves as a growing list of FAQs that may answer questions that you have specific to your business.

How to Apply

The first step applicants should take is registering (creating a login account) at restaurants.sba.gov on Friday at 8 a.m. Applicants that plan to submit their application via the point of sale (POS) providers Square or Toast do not need to register. Entities utilizing Clover or Aloha should still register. The only requirement when registering on Friday is that applicants must have a mobile phone as a text will be utilized to verify the login.

It’s key for applicants to to begin preparations ahead of the when the application process opens Monday May 3, at 11 a.m. Applicants can prepare by following instructions below, reading the program guide, having all documentation prepared in labeled PDFs, and completing the sample application. Applicants that have conducted this pre-work are expected to complete the application in roughly 25 minutes. The SBA encourages that restaurants that seek to apply should be prepared to submit their application in the first possible minute after the portal opens. The website currently handles more traffic than is expected on Monday and is not expected to crash.

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The American Rescue Plan – Updates to the FFCRA’s Paid Sick Leave and Expanded FMLA Provisions

The following is a guest blog by Greater Mankato Growth member, Blethen Berens. In it they highlight two important elements of the American Rescue Plan as it relates to employee leave.

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (hereinafter referred to as the “ARPA”). ARPA provides, among other things, important changes to the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave originally provided for under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for employers with less than 500 employees. The most important thing to note is that these leave options are completely voluntary for employers: Employers are not required to offer either emergency paid sick leave or paid FMLA leave to their employees under ARPA, but there are tax incentives available to encourage employers to voluntarily offer this paid leave.

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Restaurant Revitalization Fund: A Deeper Look

EDIT: April 20, 2021 – The SBA has launched their website on the Restaurant Revitalization fund and has released a program guide (PDF). A DUNS number or a SAM.gov account will no longer be required.

In our blog post on the small business support included in the American Rescue Plan, it was clear that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) will be a key opportunity for many of our hardest-hit businesses to recover. It is not yet known when applications for the RRF will become available, with the SBA stating that it will take “weeks, not months.” While full details of this program are not yet available, this blog post will dive deeper into what we know right now about the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, how it can be used, and how to prepare to take advantage of it. Click here to skip right to the section on how to prepare to apply.

What is the Restaurant Revitalization Fund?

As part of the American Rescue Plan, signed into law on March 11, 2021, Congress recognized the great burden placed on restaurants, bars, and other similar places of business with the creation of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). This established a $28.6 billion fund that restaurants can use to cover up to all of their pandemic-related revenue losses. The amount is determined by subtracting 2020 revenue from 2019 revenue and providing a grant for the difference, minus any PPP loans received. For example, a restaurant that made $400,000 less in revenue in 2020 compared to 2019 and also received $100,000 in PPP loans would be eligible for a grant of $300,000. Separate calculations are used to cover businesses that opened in 2019, 2020, or haven’t opened yet. These grants are not taxable and expenses covered by them can still be deducted as normal. Note: The RRF does not contain enough to cover all eligible restaurants without additional funding from Congress. As such, businesses eligible for a first or second draw PPP loan are urged to continue to take advantage of that despite the fact that it reduces the amount of the RRF grant.

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MN Governor Announces Changes to COVID restrictions

Today, Governor Walz announced reduced COVID-19 restrictions (Executive Order 21-11) for social gatherings, increases to business capacity limits, and increases to large venue capacity limits.

A summary was provided from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic development:

Effective Monday, March 15th, at 12:00pm (Noon): 

To make it easier to safely gather with family, we are doing the following: 

  • Social gatherings: Up to 50 people outdoors or 15 people for indoor gatherings, both without household limits. 
  • Religious services: Remove capacity limits but social distancing required.  

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American Rescue Plan – Key Provisions Impacting Businesses

This week, President Biden signed the $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan. This is the third major stimulus package passed by the Federal Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there has been much discussion about relief to individuals including a new round of $1400 stimulus checks & unemployment benefit extensions as well as increased funding for vaccine purchase & distribution, this blog post will focus on the relief programs impacting businesses including the creation of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, expansions and changes to the PPP & EIDL loan programs, and expansions and changes to the Employee Retention Tax Credit Program. The full text of the law can be found here.

Restaurant Revitalization Fund

Edit: An updated post specific to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund & how to prepare for an application can be found here.

  • Restaurants, bars, & other elligible entities will be elligible to apply for a grant equal to 2019 revenue minus 2020 revenue minus PPP loans already received.
    • Businesses that opened in 2019 will determine their amount of grant eligibility by multiplying their average monthly gross revenue in 2019 by 12.
    • Businesses that opened in 2020 that experienced operating losses will be elligible for a grant under a similar formula that covers losses incurred.
    • Businesses that have not yet opened but that have already incurred payroll costs will be elligible for a grant that covers those expenses.
    • *Note: Formulas for determining grant eligibility for all three above categories may be modified via SBA guidance.

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Changes in the Paycheck Protection Program that benefit the smallest of small businesses

The Paycheck Protection Program has been one of the most visible programs inside the US Government’s response to the pandemic. The overall goal of the program was to get loans to small businesses to help them keep their staff employed as we entered the unknown waters of a pandemic economy. If these small businesses kept their staffs employed, these loans would be forgiven, and the loans would essentially convert into grants. There was recently a change to how much funding a small business would qualify for, and this change will have a dramatic impact on the smallest businesses who were previously either left out of the program or only qualified for a nominal amount of funds. 

These changes revolve around people who report their business income using a Schedule C on their tax return. Schedule Cs are typically used for sole proprietors (fancy way of saying people who do business in their personal name with no formal entity like a LLC or corporation), but some LLCs also use Schedule Cs. Up until this point, these businesses would determine the amount of a loan they qualified for by combining the annual payroll costs of any employees with the net profit of the business. These two figures formed the basis of the calculation, and the idea was that these figures would represent the combined compensation paid the employees and the owner.

The unintended consequence of how the program was initially setup is that many of the smallest businesses operate at essentially a breakeven where income is nearly entirely offset by expenses. Due to this, the “owners” portion (net profit) could be very low or $0 which caused their PPP loan amount to go down. With the new changes, the “owner” compensation portion of the calculation has been switched from using the net profit to the gross profit. This change will dramatically impact the amount of PPP funds a small business can qualify for as well as even allowing some businesses with a negative net profit to receive PPP funds when previously they did not qualify at all.

These changes became effective on March 5th, and they will be in place through the end of the program on March 31st. This can have a massive impact on some of the smallest businesses in our community.  Businesses that use Schedule Cs range from popup stands at the farmers market to businesses on Front Street. This group of businesses provide much of the vitality that makes Mankato special; so let’s get the word out so these businesses survive!

At Pioneer Bank, we have funded over 1,350 PPP loans for our community with a median loan size of $20,000. Most banks have access to this program, but anyone can feel free to send any questions to Clay Sharkey.

COVID-19 Resources for Businesses

Operating your business safely during a pandemic

Conducting business activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic takes careful planning to ensure employees and customers are safe and business goals are met. Mayo Clinic experts have carefully developed strategies and protocols focused on mitigating COVID-19 within the health care setting, where halting transmission is critical. They are also currently tailoring those strategies to support and advise businesses in settings outside of health care.

Mayo Clinic has refined its expertise and may offer advisory services in the following areas, which may be relevant to your business:

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Governor Walz Loosens COVID Restrictions

Effective Saturday, February 13 at Noon, Governor Walz has amended Executive Order 20-01 with Executive Order 20-07, loosening on COVID restrictions. Full details of the changes can be viewed in Executive Order 20-07.

The major changes are as follows:

  • Capacity for private social celebrations & events (including but not limited to weddings, funerals, life milestones, family reunions, religious services, and other similar occassions) occurring at venues involving the consumption of food or alcohol has increased from 10 indoor & 15 outdoor to 50.
  • Maximum capacity of indoor and outdoor space for restaurants, bars, gyms, & venues providing entertainment expanded from 150 to 250.
  • Facilities allowing food and beverage consumption are allowed to remain open until 11:00 pm rather than 10:00 pm