The Little Falls Economic Development Authority (EDA), the Little Falls Business Association, and Community Development of Morrison County provided an informational webinar Thursday for businesses hoping to reopen after Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday that the stay at home order will not be extended past May 18.

The new declaration keeps restrictions on bars, restaurants and other businesses that would normally have a high volume of patrons. However other retailers may reopen provided they abide by capacity restrictions and create a COVID-19 business safety action plan.

The webinar, viewed by some local business owners and city officials, detailed how to create an action plan and guidelines to follow from sanitizing work stations to screening employees.

Little Falls Mayor Greg Zylka, a chair on the EDA Board, announced that the group is still meeting weekly to provide grants and low interest loans to Little Falls businesses in need.

City Administrator Jon Radermacher said the city has awarded 30 $5,000 emergency loans which have 0% interest for 42 months with the ability to defer payments on the first six months of the loans. If a loan customer starts to pay back the loan on the seventh month and makes 18 payments on time, the remaining payments are forgiven. “We want to continue that as long as we have funding for it. We do have funding for 75 total businesses at this time and we’re still continuing to increase that pool of resources,” Radermacher said.

Under Executive Order 20-56, Order 20-48 is rescinded May 18, but the governor still encourages Minnesotans to wear face masks and those at risk people (the elderly and those with medical conditions increasing their risk) stay home as much as possible. Social distancing and limiting public interaction is still encouraged and people may gather in groups of no more than 10 if taking necessary precautions. Employees are still urged to work from home when possible and critical businesses may operate as they did under the previous executive order.

Changes mostly apply to business previously determined to be non-critical.

“The biggest thing to do before you open your doors is put together this COVID-19 preparedness plan,” said Justin Black, a webinar presenter and CEO of Momentiv, a workplace insurance company.

Each plan must abide by the following: require work from home whenever possible, ensure that sick workers stay home, establish social distancing measures, establish hygiene control policies and create disinfection and ventilation protocols.

Customer interactive businesses must include additional plans to keep patrons and employees safe, including social distancing practice and a minimum 50% reduction in standard customer capacity determined by the fire marshal.

The guidelines are all set and provided by the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). DEED also provides templates for preparedness plans on its website.

Recommendations to comply with the requirements were provided in the seminar. The first is to request employees to self monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and screen employees before coming to work each day. Create an employee leave policy for those who fall ill and enforce strict social distancing and hygiene requirements, including the use of masks, gloves etc. ... to prevent employee illness in the workplace.

Implement proper housekeeping guidelines for disinfection and decontamination.

Lastly, share and communicate all compliance regulations with staff including possible penalties for employees not abiding by such policies. “The last thing that you want to do is short-sight some of these requirements and have a case or cases hinder your business and require you to shut down,” said Black.

A link to the guideline presentation can be found on the Morrison County Record’s website or Facebook page and additional information can be obtained from DEED Minnesota’s website.

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