Updated: August 26, 2020 06:13 PM
The commissioner of Minnesota's Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) visited Duluth Wednesday for his economic recovery listening tour where he visited local businesses and heard feedback from those businesses on how things are going for them now.
Small businesses are still feeling a financial strain from the pandemic. Commissioner Steve Grove spoke with the owner of Duluth's India Palace, who was a awardee of Minnesota's Small Business Emergency Loan. Grove also connected with Duluth Careerforce staff about the options people still have to get back up from the financial impact COVID-19 has had.
If you would have asked Miazhie Welie Haralu, the owner of India Palace, if he would continue to have his business open to customers now, his response might have been different.
"Initially oh my goodness it was a nightmare. The first few months we were not sure we could keep it open," said Haralu.
Haralu goes by Willy at work. He said there were bills he couldn’t pay for his business. It's a reality many business continue to face, but Willy said a $30,000 emergency loan from DEED and support from the community helped save his business. Fifty percent of the loan is forgivable, and the loan has a 0 percent interest rate and a 30 year term.
"It's the stories of people like Willy and the folks who work here that really inspire us to keep doing this work and to learn how to get it right because this is not a crisis the government is going to figure out on its own. We gotta be working with business we got to partner with small businesses in particular," said Grove.
"It was a big relief and because of that we are still open. If I compare to last year, it isn't the same, but we are definitely doing better," said Haralu.
Haralu said the support from the community has shown. He said people mostly order their food for carryout or through Food Dudes Delivery. He said they do have people come in for dining too. Their popular buffet is closed for now due to COVID-19 and they have spent extra money on disinfecting and cleaning products.
Grove said there is still a lot of help out there for businesses struggling.
"We have grant programs, we have loan programs. The federal government has even bigger programs and the Small Business Administration(SBA) has an enormous amount of loan dollars. We also certainly hope that additional stimulus packages can come out of Washington," said Grove.
Grove added that he has noted things are slowly but surely getting better. Duluth's Careerforce has noted this too.
"We have seen weekly benefit requests decrease on unemployment insurance. There's fewer people collecting checks each week as each week goes by," said Grove.
"We've really started to see a shift starting in July away from questions about unemployment insurance and now towards people who are looking for jobs. We're really spending a lot more time helping people figure out who's hiring right now," said Elena Foshay, the director of Duluth's Workforce Development.
Grove discussed workforce and economics with the Careerforce staff and also help for dislocated workers.
Foshay said they have created a variety of opportunities to connect people with employers. As well as hosting many trainings, virtual hiring events, webinars and more.
"We are working on putting together a drive thru job fair, understanding that not everyone has computers and internet access at home. We're going to have an opportunity for folks to come by in person and just drive through and pick up a packet of job postings that are available as well as information about some training programs that we're offering," said Foshay.
They're also focusing on efforts to address the digital divide and getting more internet access for people.
"There's the Duluth Digital Inclusion initiative, it's a group of organizations in the community that have come together to really try to address the digital divide. Understanding that there's so many people that don't have any of that access and it's an essential service right now," said Foshay.
For those interested in getting services or help from Duluth's Careerforce, click here or call 218-302-8400.
For businesses needing services from DEED, click here.
Updated: August 26, 2020 06:13 PM
Created: August 26, 2020 04:31 PM
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