Families and businesses need government to work quickly and efficiently now more than ever. COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives over the past year. Businesses, forced to operate at reduced capacities, had to make sacrifices in order to survive with greatly diminished cash flows. Students, barred from their classrooms, struggled to maintain their schoolwork while learning online. Minnesotans faced these challenges head on. It is so unfortunate to see that government, particularly the MN House of Representatives, is not stepping up and working quickly to alleviate some of the uncertainty that we still face in this pandemic.
Last week I met with several area businesses. They all shared with me that their number one concern is passing Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan conformity. PPP loans were a lifeline to businesses across the state early in the pandemic. They were used to keep workers employed and cover overhead costs.
Now, unless the Legislature acts to forgive PPP loans, Minnesota businesses will have to pay tax on these forgiven funds. We are the only state in the Upper Midwest that has not passed PPP conformity. This should not be a partisan issue. Government should not be profiting off of relief that businesses needed in order to survive Gov. Walz’s shutdowns. The Senate passed a bill with a veto-proof majority of 55-12. It is unconscionable that the House Majority has not acted to quickly follow suit. House Republicans tried several times to bring PPP conformity to the floor, but we have been blocked every time.
This is not the only area where the House DFL has blocked our commonsense efforts to help Minnesotans. The Legislature also needs to quickly act to conform Unemployment Insurance (UI) to federal limits. Those who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic could find themselves paying taxes on this income. When House Republicans moved to exclude the first $10,200 of unemployment pay from 2020 income taxes, our efforts were thwarted.
Summer learning is another issue where the House has not been effective. In order to plan for summer school, our school districts need to know what funding will be available.
House Republicans have a plan that will put funds directly in the classroom for in-person learning. The House DFL recently passed their own bill for summer learning. One hitch: $51 million goes to the Department of Education for grants that they will distribute based on their criteria while only $29 million goes directly toward K-12 summer programs. We need to fund classrooms, not bureaucracy. That is the only way we can effectively help our students regain the academic achievement lost during COVID-19.
It is unconscionable that the House Majority is taking little action to help our businesses and students recover from the closures government forced them to endure during the pandemic. Our Main Streets and schools need action now. I will keep fighting to make sure they have the resources they need to not only rebuild, but thrive once this pandemic is over.
Nels Pierson, a Republican from Stewartville, has served in the Minnesota House of Representatives since 2015.