As Minnesota lawmakers debate relief funding for areas impacted by recent unrest, local businesses owners voiced their concerns at a Tuesday hearing.
University-area Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, authored the PROMISE Act, which would allocate $300 million toward helping rebuild affected areas over the next two years. The bill passed the House during the recent special session, but it still requires Senate approval. Local business owners said the money is critical to help the community heal, but residents also need to be a part of the legislative process.
Noor said the hardest hit areas include the businesses corridors of University Avenue in St. Paul, Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis and Lake Street in South Minneapolis. In Noor’s district, businesses in Seward and along Cedar Avenue in Cedar-Riverside also suffered damage.
“We need to provide that small support for businesses, for any companies, that are not covered by insurance. … But we also need to look into what is the long-term goal. … [Lake Street] needs a strong investment. We need to reimagine how our city will look,” Noor said.
The bill includes around $167 million for immediate relief for cities and businesses. Minnesota Somali Chamber of Commerce board member Liban Alishire, who also owns a property near Lake Street, said small businesses need to be prioritized in any funding allocations.
“We’re taxpayers, we're employers, we're people that are the backbone of the economy. And we want to be assured that they're going to help us get through these tough times,” Alishire said.
Alishire said local business owners are concerned about inadequate insurance funding to cover damages. One of his buildings suffered damage, but since it was not assessed by the city, he said he worries about receiving funds to pay for it.
Those concerns make it even more important for lawmakers to hear from those affected, Alishire said.
“We want to be appreciated, we want to be celebrated,” he said. “We hope to come out on the other end of a better state and a better city.”
Part of the PROMISE Act would also appoint a commission to examine the response to the unrest by public officials including mayors, Gov. Tim Walz and the National Guard. Information collected by the commission would be used to create specific policies for future unrest.
The bill has yet to pass the Republican-controlled Senate. The Legislature is not in session but could resume for a special session in coming weeks.
Rep. Jon Koznick, R-Lakeville, said there is bipartisan support for the PROMISE Act, but lawmakers need to agree on a source of funding.
The bill currently calls for funding through a 0.125% sales tax across the metro area, which Koznick said would make it difficult to pass in the Senate.
“We recognize the importance of South Minneapolis to the city of Minneapolis and its importance economically to and culturally to the state,” Koznick said. “It was a special session, and it was in a hurry to put something together and so not … all the t's were crossed and i's dotted.”