Gov. Tim Walz is highlighting a program to support Minnesota's cultural malls impacted by COVID-19.
Walz visited the Village Market in Minneapolis Thursday to talk about the $2.5 million program. He is encouraging cultural malls in Minnesota to apply for relief by July 10. More information about the program is available online.
"They're far more than business malls, they're community centers that matter to the sense of community," Walz said to the public. "We wanted to just get out here, show Minnesotans this great economic activity."
Walz said there are 170 businesses within the Village Market. He pointed out that during COVID-19, the hardest-hit businesses have been small family businesses.
Village Market co-owner Omar Sabri spoke to the crowd and thanked lawmakers for the funding.
"It's just been extremely emotional the past couple of months going through COVID," he said. "Being here today, being recognized that we are a cultural mall, we are different from a main street mall, just is a step closer to the future."
The governor also said that the state is committed to keeping communities of color safe as they are disproportionately hit by the pandemic.
"Making sure testing is available, tracing and the information necessary to get people safe during COVID-19," he said.
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan spoke about the trauma communities of color have experienced as a result of both COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd.
"When we can come back together and we can talk about the future and rebuilding and connecting and ensuring that the small business owners and entrepreneurs who are here can continue to stay open, that gives me hope," she said.
Flanagan said the passage of the funding shows how important it is to have lawmakers who reflect the communities they represent.
Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove said the program is targeted at ethnic malls with 20 or more tenants. The businesses have to be six employees or fewer.
"This is really kind of an incubator for immigrants who come to the country and want to start a business," he said. "It's really important to get these newest Minnesotans off to a great start financially."
Grove said the relief is in the form of grants, not loans, and that they have had a number of applications come in.
Earlier on Thursday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey presented a proposal for a revised 2020 budget to city council members. He emphasized that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting communities of color in Minneapolis, and programs promoting equity need to stay in the budget.
On Wednesday, Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan visited the Department of Indian Work food shelf to announce $12 million in funding to combat hunger during the pandemic.