I hope the warm, sunny weather lately has been a bright spot, literally and figuratively, as we all continue to adjust to social distancing under the governor’s Stay At Home order. While these changes to everyday life have come about quickly and affected us all deeply, I am proud that our community and our state are seeing the bigger picture: by staying home now, we are saving lives later. The Star Tribune reported over the weekend that modeling suggests the forecasted number of deaths from COVID-19 has been cut in half because of the precautions we are collectively taking. It’s working! By staying home now, we are limiting the virus’ spread among our friends, families, and neighbors.
We continue to face significant challenges, and the City is working every single day to provide essential services and build solutions to the new problems posed by this pandemic. I will continue to provide new information and reminders in this newsletter, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
As always, you can reach me at email@example.com or 612-673-2211. I continue to do my best to respond promptly to every inquiry, and track down any information you may need.
More than $5 million in City funding and new programming is now being dedicated to help residents, families, small businesses, and employees hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, the funding will provide housing assistance to low-income renters who have lost income as well as no-interest loans for small businesses. The City is taking steps to make sure these funds complement, not duplicate, existing federal and state resources. In addition, City officials continue to advocate for Minneapolis residents and business owners at all levels of government.
The City’s gap fund for housing includes:
- $2 million for emergency housing assistance programs. The amount of assistance for qualifying households varies, depending on individual needs and taking into consideration other resources individual households are eligible to receive. In most cases, the maximum amount of assistance won’t exceed $1,500 per household, but providers have the flexibility to provide up to $2,000 under extraordinary circumstances.
- $1 million to expand the Stable Homes Stable Schools initiative. This program provides one-time or short-term assistance to families experiencing homelessness or housing instability. It will now be expanded to address pandemic-related housing instability on an emergency basis, and eligibility will expand to students at all 39 Minneapolis Public Schools elementary schools.
The gap fund for small businesses includes:
- Modifications to the City loan program. The City’s existing 2% loan program for small businesses will be modified to set the interest rate to 0% and expand the eligible expenses to include working capital costs. Eligible businesses and self-employed workers need to have 20 or fewer employees or $1 million or less in annual revenue, and also be able to show a demonstrable impact from the pandemic.
- Expanded funding for two programs that have already had success helping the Minneapolis business community will have stepped up funding. The Business Technical Assistance Program (B-TAP), which provides consulting support to small-sized and medium-sized businesses in Minneapolis, will receive $300,000 so more people can get support navigating the challenges brought by the pandemic. The Twin Cities Hospitality Fund, a partnership that provides micro-grants to low-wealth employees in the hospitality and service industry, will receive $100,000.
- $2.2 million in forgivable and no-interest loans to support small businesses and self-employed workers. Companies with 20 or fewer employees and people who are self-employed will be eligible to receive fixed loan amounts of $5,000 and $10,000, depending on need resulting from the pandemic. Eligible small businesses must also be located in Cultural Districts, Promise Zones, Green Zones, or areas of concentrated poverty. This criteria does not currently include Ward 11 businesses, and I will continue to push as I did at Friday’s City Council meeting to include Ward 11 businesses unable to access other resources and programs.
The City will also re-examine loans closed before the pandemic to help small businesses. For eligible and existing City-issued loans less than $200,000 to homebuyers and businesses, the City is moving forward with six months of forbearance and deferred payments. More information on the gap funding package is available here.
With City meetings indefinitely being held electronically, I’m excited to share that we’ve put in place modifications that allow people who want to participate to do so remotely — and that includes providing comments during public hearings. You can find more details, including how to watch live broadcasts, here. When there are scheduled public hearings, people can provide live comments by phone. Anyone interested would fill out a form available at the link above. Once submitted, a phone number and conference code will be emailed to that person.
The first public hearings to use remote commenting will happen today: the Business, Inspections & Zoning (BIZ) Committee will meet at 1:30 p.m., then the Heritage Preservation Commission meets at 4:30 p.m. Find a full calendar of meetings and agendas here.
I join the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board in asking you to be mindful of social distancing when you’re using parks and trails. I’ve heard from many neighbors who are concerned about folks not leaving the recommended six feet of space between themselves and other trail users. The Park Board and the City partnered to open a number of parkways and streets to pedestrians and cyclists, and we need to use that space to keep ourselves and each other safe. Some tips:
- Stay at least six feet from other park users not part of your household. This may mean you have to go a little slower and be mindful of others as you pass.
- Do not participate in group activities where you can’t stay six feet apart. This means no pickup basketball, soccer, football, volleyball, or other team sports – and no group activities with people from outside your household, including grilling, hammocking, or sunbathing in close proximity.
- Do not drive across the city (or the metro) to popular park attractions. Nearly all Minneapolis residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Using the parks and open space in your neighborhood is more convenient and prevents crowding.
- Use parks in moderation. Visit parks for a walk, roll, or bike, but do not hang out at the park all day.
You can help protect those around you by wearing a non-medical grade mask when you’re out in public. The CDC issued guidance on face coverings in recent days. These face coverings can catch respiratory droplets and prevent them from coming into contact with others. It’s important to remember that people can still carry COVID-19 and be contagious even without showing symptoms, so this is one step we can take to minimize the risk for all our neighbors – especially those who are most vulnerable. Still, wearing a mask – which could be made from a bandana, a towel, a t-shirt, or a gaiter — is not meant to protect you and is not a substitute for social distancing and staying at home.
To see how to make your own mask at home, check out this video from the Surgeon General. Please do not use medical-grade or surgical masks for yourself. These supplies are badly needed in healthcare facilities to protect frontline healthcare workers. If you have any of these items on hand, get details on how to donate them here or email PPEDropoff@hennepin.us.
I stand with our community, and many of my elected colleagues from across the state, in calling on Governor Walz for a temporary suspension of rent and mortgage payments during this crisis. We can’t afford to risk displacing the people and businesses that make our community such a special place. We need them to still be there on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. To get there, we need to provide them relief now. I was one of many local elected officials who signed on to this letter, which was sent to the governor this week. I look forward to his response, and remain committed to doing everything I can to support our community during this difficult time.
The City in partnership with Hennepin County continues to monitor and address specific issues this pandemic has raised among people without housing. In a previous newsletter, I highlighted that the County had appropriated $3 million last month to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among those who are unsheltered. Well over 100 people have been transitioned into hotel space, with priority given to seniors and folks who are otherwise vulnerable to the virus.
Last week, the County opened a third hotel site last week to provide isolation spaces for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who are waiting results of a test. As of Friday, none had tested positive. City and County staff continue to work together and with street outreach teams to monitor unsheltered homelessness in light of the Stay At Home Executive order. Staff are exploring ways to provide additional sanitation services to people who are unsheltered.
Meanwhile, the County has also set up a new hotline through Healthcare for the Homeless to help people access quarantine and isolation space, or to speak with a nurse or social worker. Please encourage anyone who may need these services to call 612-348-5553. In addition, this list of resources may help people experiencing housing instability, including key information like how to access shelter, how to apply for food or rent assistance, and where to find public restrooms.
Local business owners continue to feel the impacts of COVID-19, and the guidance available to help them through this time is evolving quickly as more resources become available. Every Friday at noon for the foreseeable future, City staff along with Mayor Jacob Frey’s office will host calls for business owners and employees looking for more information and/or answers to their questions. You can register for this Friday’s call, and others, at this link. When you register, you’ll receive an email with instructions on how to participate. In addition, you can submit questions ahead of time using this form – staff will answer as many as they are able to during the call.
I also recommend members of our business community – including workers — review information available in the Business & Employees section of the City’s COVID-19 website. There, you can find regularly updated information and resources to provide support during this difficult time. Plus, the City’s Small Business Team has been expanded so they can address the high volume of questions and concerns that have arisen in recent weeks. You can contact them for help at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-673-2499.
The City’s Health Department is establishing a donation hub to connect those with capacity and resources to those with complementary needs. The City will not warehouse or store actual items; instead, our staff will help catalog what is available and what is needed, then help people on each side find each other. The City is managing donations of items other than personal protective equipment (PPE), which can be donated through Hennepin County (more information on that under the “Donations needed” tab here).
The best first step for folks interested in donating anything besides PPE, and folks who need items other than PPE, is to fill out the appropriate form (links below). From there, staff leading the COVID-19 response will do what they can to deploy resources and bridge gaps.
- Individuals or organizations seeking to donate items other than PPE should use this form
- Individuals or organizations in need of items other than PPE should use this form (this includes requests for thermometers)
- Organizations in need of PPE should email COVID19@minneapolismn.gov for assistance
Minneapolis Public Schools is now exclusively providing weekly student meal pick-ups rather the daily service. Each food box is available free of charge and contains five breakfasts and five lunches. Families can take one box per child per week. Boxes will be available at several dozen sites citywide, but not all site will be open every. Check this schedule to see when a distribution site near you is open and to get more information on this program. Student meal boxes will be distributed from yellow school buses at all pick-up sites.
Many restaurants statewide are offering free meals for kids – check out this map to see where. If you need additional food support, the City has information on food shelves and other resources that can help here.
The Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging recently unveiled this fantastic new resource that includes a wealth of information for seniors and caregivers dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. This database is searchable by county and includes services offered statewide. It is regularly updated as more programs and information become available. It is a great companion to the list of senior and caregiver resources I sent last month (you can find that here, by scrolling down to the “Seniors” tab). If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, call the Senior LinkAge Line for one-on-one help at 1-800-333-2433.
As I’ve promised before, I will continue to keep you up to date with regular email updates like this one as well as real-time posts on my Facebook page and on Twitter. Still, I encourage you to also sign up for our new citywide COVID-19 newsletter (you can subscribe by entering your email address on this page). This resource includes information on the City’s COVID-19 response and resources available to Minneapolis residents and businesses as we all grapple with the challenges that stem from a global pandemic. In addition to the newsletter, check the City’s COVID-19 website which is updated regularly with current information and tools that may be helpful to business owners, workers, and community members affected by this crisis.
Get information, help, and guidance on the evolving COVID-19 situation using these tools:
- The City is posting frequent updates on COVID-19 to this website.
- The Minnesota Department of Health website includes comprehensive updates, and access materials in multiple languages here.
- The Minnesota Department of Health is operating two hotlines related to COVID-19, both open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.:
- Health questions, call 1-800-657-3903
- School and childcare questions, call 1-800-657-3504
- If you are concerned for your personal safety related to domestic and/or sexual violence, call:
- The Standpoint MN Action line at 1-800-313-2666
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
- The Minnesota Day One statewide line for victims at 1-866-223-1111
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed with sadness, depression, anxiety, or other emotions you can get support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by:
- Calling 1-800-985-5990
- Texting “TalkWithUs” or “Hablanos” to 66746 (TTY 1-800-846-8517)
Hennepin County is required by statute to collect property taxes twice a year, with the first half due May 15 and the second half due Oct. 15. Unless the Minnesota legislature extends or modifies these deadlines, they remain in effect. Hennepin County, which collects property taxes, does not have the authority to adjust this timeline or any due dates on its own. If you have questions about property taxes, email email@example.com or call 612-348-3011.
Property taxes allow local governments to provide essential services, though I recognize the added financial strain many folks are feeling during this pandemic. For help navigating your situation, contact the Minnesota Homeownership Center. The City provides $275,000 in funding to ensure residents have the support they need to protect their investment and remain stable in their housing. This includes relief options. These supports are available in multiple languages.
If it hasn’t come already, property owners will soon receive 2020 Notices of Valuation and Classification. The notice includes a property’s 2020 estimated market value, which will be used to calculate 2021 property taxes. If you disagree with the market value, your best first step is to contact the appraiser responsible for your neighborhood – their phone number and email address are printed on your notice.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, appraisers will conduct desktop reviews rather than onsite inspections for property owners who wish to appeal their market value. Photos and supporting documentation can be submitted to the appraiser for review and consideration. The appeal application will be available on the City Assessor’s website after all valuation notices are mailed. There is an online application that allows you to attach electronic files, or you can mail a paper application and supporting documents to the City Assessor’s Office. Information on the application and where to send it is on the notice.
If you disagree with the review of the appraiser, the next step is to appeal to the Local Board. The Local Board will convene on May 6. The City is working to get in place a virtual meeting format for property owners to work through these appeals, and information on this will be posted as soon as it’s available.
Public Works crews continue to gear up for this construction season, which has so far been unaffected by COVID-19. I’ll share a couple updates of note in our area.
34th Avenue Reconstruction
Work on 34th Avenue will continue between 51st Street and Minnehaha Parkway after last year’s focus on the section of 34th Avenue between 51st Street and 58th Street. This project includes improvements to the roadway, sidewalk, and utilities. Find additional details on the project website – including the sign-up for project updates at the bottom of the page. If you’re interested in or affected by this project, I encourage you to attend a virtual project kick-off meeting this Wednesday, April 8 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. This meeting will be held via Skype, and those interested in attending should contact construction engineer Menbere Wodajo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-900-5848.
During this season’s work, traffic will be detoured onto 28th Avenue between 50th Street and 54th Street, with Metro Transit southbound service detoured onto 36th Avenue between 50th Street and 52nd Street and northbound service detoured onto 35th Avenue between 50th Street and 52nd Street. Additionally, starting next Monday, April 13, Keewaydin Place will temporarily accommodate two-way traffic between 31st Avenue and 34th Avenue to help with traffic flows. Most north side parking on Keewaydin Place will be prohibited during this temporary change.
Southwest Windom Residential Reconstruction
This project will reconstruct the street and portions of the sidewalk in the southwest corner of the Windom neighborhood (find a map of the project area here). The City’s environmental and pedestrian safety initiatives were incorporated into the design, including the use of boulevard swales – which help with stormwater runoff – and curb bumpouts. This week, residents can expect continued work lowering manholes throughout the neighborhood, expected to wrap by Friday. Sewer workers may begin installing new storm drains at 61st Street and Dupont Avenue, including areas of pavement removal, if they complete manhole work sooner.
The project will be broken up into stages, with each stage expected to take three or four weeks (with some overlap). You can see a map of stages here. Sign up to get regular email updates on this project, and if you have questions please contact supervisor engineering technician Peter Behnk at email@example.com or 612-772-3883.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the comment period for the draft Transportation Action Plan has been extended until May 22. City staff are extending the comment period to give people more time to learn about the action plan and provide feedback. Online open houses will be held starting Monday, April 13 for folks to learn about the plan and share their thoughts – get more details on how to participate here. People can also check out the interactive Transportation Action Plan website to read the draft plan and offer input.
The 10-year plan showcases a range of strategies to implement the transportation vision included in the Minneapolis 2040 plan – a framework that emphasizes equity and climate action. This draft document covers a range of strategies for planning, design, and implementation of transportation projects, for all people in all the ways they move around.
The Nice Ride Minnesota bikeshare system is back in action as of this week. While it’s great to see these bikes available again, please limit your travel to essential purposes – including recreation and critical work – while you continue to practice social distancing under the Stay At Home order in effect now. In addition, given public health concerns, Nice Ride has increased cleaning protocols. High-contact surfaces on bikes are disinfected every time they arrive at the warehouse, and surfaces on vans used to transport bikes are disinfected at the start of each shift. Workers are wearing gloves when handling bikes as well.
Further, in light of COVID-19, Nice Ride is launching a new program to give critical healthcare workers free 30-day bikeshare memberships. Eligible healthcare workers can sign up through their employer to access unlimited 60-minute trips through May 6. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Tree Trust is back with low-cost trees you can add to your yard this spring. Trees help clean the air, prevent soil erosion, slow water runoff, and provide shade – as well as an excuse to get outside while we all stay at home. If you have room to add one to your yard, this is a great opportunity to do so. Trees cost $25 each and residents in any part of the City can order now (with a one tree maximum per address). Find more information and reserve your tree at this link. Trees will be distributed May 16, 17, and 18. You must be able to pick up your tree at the Minneapolis Impound Lot on one of these dates.
As a reminder, the City’s Solid Waste & Recycling crews have begun their spring collection of leaves, brush, and other yard trimmings. For pick-up, folks should set properly prepared yard waste at their alleys or curbs alongside their garbage carts by 6 a.m. on garbage day.
To properly prepare your yard waste, you can set it out in a reusable container that holds between 32 and 38 gallons with sturdy handles, in compostable bags (paper or certified compostable plastic), or bundle it with string or twine. Each container, bag, or bundle must weigh less than 40 pounds, and branches must be less than three inches in diameter and cut to less than 3 feet. Using bags marked “biodegradable” or “degradable” do not meet state law and are not accepted. Finally, please do not rake leaves into the street – it’s against the law, and pollutes our waterways. Questions about yard waste pickup? Check this website or call 612-673-2917 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Last but not least, have you filled out your census form yet? You have received at least one mailing with information about how to be counted in the census, the vitally important national population count that determines how much representation our community gets in our federal government and how much federal funding we receive to support critical programs and services. Only about half of Minneapolis residents have taken the census so far – we can do better, and we have to do better!
The census only happens every 10 years, and we’ll feel its impacts for the coming decade. The good news is, it’s really easy. You can fill out your questionnaire online in less than 10 minutes. Get more details on the 2020 census here.