Economic development in a pandemic (and post-pandemic) environment

Economic development in a pandemic (and post-pandemic) environment Main Photo

24 Mar 2020


Great River Energy’s economic development services team stands in solidarity with its member-owner cooperatives and partner organizations as the world continues to monitor and adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This pandemic is unprecedented. But the need for economic development professionals to adapt quickly in response to a crisis is not. Whether faced with natural disasters, catastrophic events or viral pandemics, the role economic developers play in supporting the economic response and recovery efforts can have a significant impact in shortening the recovery time for businesses and communities.

As an immediate action, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz issued Small Business Assistance Executive Order 20-15 on March 23, allowing the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to create an emergency loan program to help Minnesota small business owners with immediate assistance to meet their families’ basic needs during COVID-19 closures.

In addition, there have been significant changes to the State of Minnesota’s unemployment practices and procedures. Please visit www.uimn.org for additional information. There is also a wealth of other materials available on the DEED website.

At the federal level, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has activated the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program in Minnesota to provide low-interest loans of up to $2 million to businesses and nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These direct loans from SBA can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Please visit the SBA website or call the SBA hotline at 1-800-659-2955 if you have questions.

New legislation is also moving forward at the Congressional level, with an initial portion of emergency funding (HR 6074) having been signed into law in early March, and a second tranche of supplemental funding (HR 6201) passing the House and Senate on March 18. A third supplemental spending package is expected, with a focus on longer-term economic recovery and economic stimulus.

Great River Energy’s economic development services team is prepared to assist its member-owner cooperatives and the communities they serve to monitor and access any economic recovery programs that may be implemented at the federal level.

Some of these resources already exist. In March 2011, Presidential Policy Directive (PPD)-8 directed all federal government departments and agencies to collaboratively design and implement “a systematic effort to keep the nation safe from harm and resilient when struck by hazards, such as natural disasters, acts of terrorism and pandemics.”

This directive established the National Disaster Recovery Framework to facilitate coordinated interagency capacities across all disaster-related mission areas (Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery) across six Recovery Support Functions (RSF) led by a coordinating agency.

For example, under the Economic RSF, the U.S. Economic Development Authority (EDA) has partnered with the International Economic Development Council to produce a suite of economic recovery informational tools, which can be found at RestoreYourEconomy.org.

These include:

In addition to the EDA’s work on the Economic RSF, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency is coordinating the Community Planning and Capacity Building RSF, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is leading the Infrastructure Systems RSF, and so on.

Great River Energy’s economic development team has been trained in disaster response and recovery work and is prepared to connect its member-owner cooperatives and partner organizations with the appropriate state and federal agencies to learn more about resources available in each of the RSFs.

Great River Energy is also evaluating its economic development programs and business financing tools to see where it might adapt to better serve its member-owner cooperatives and partner organizations.

Please contact Tom Lambrecht if you have feedback on how the Great River Energy team can be most effective in supporting your recovery efforts.