COVID-19 Guidance for Small Businesses

SBA Coronavirus Relief

The following is a comprehensive outline of the relief programs being offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Impact of Coronavirus on Small Businesses





General COVID-19 Guidance for Small Businesses

Manage your cash and credit

How much cash do you have on hand?  How you could make it last for at least six months? If you don’t have enough cash on hand, evaluate how you can cut expenses or increase sales by doing something different.  Explore negotiations with your lenders, suppliers, or landlords, informing them you may need some form of cooperation in order to survive. Contact your bank to see if there are any accommodations for your current loans- turbulent times are turbulent for both sides. These situations can give you leverage in many ways to negotiate terms and pricing. When you come to an agreement, write down the date and name of the person you spoke to (in writing when possible).

Review & revise your sales strategy

Now is the time when it is necessary to be increasingly realistic and creative. The goal is not to hunker down and hide, but to develop or brainstorm ways you could actually sell more of your products or services. How can you utilize online sales and/or delivery, such as curb-side pick-up?  Challenge yourself and your staff to think differently and ratchet up your value proposition!

Think outside the box

Remember when you started your business on a shoestring budget and you were crazy creative on using word of mouth, organic social media, and key networks to sell your product or service? It’s time to jump back into that mentality. Be more creative with respect to your marketing expenses and look for ways to use marketing tactics that don’t have a significant cost.

Consider customer success 

One of the benefits of an economic downturn is that it frees up some of your time, and forces you to dig deep. Prioritize customer involvement- even if you’re only serving a few customers due to a slow down. Utilize free or low cost digital tools, and ask questions that allow you to nail down the specifics of your product, with the overarching goal of building the next phase on a strong foundation. By the time the downturn becomes an uptick, you’ll have a proven product or service ready for scale.

Focus on customer retention 

Your immediate goal is to sustain business success. Because it is cheaper to keep a customer than acquire new ones, ensuring customer satisfaction is crucial to your short and long-term business success. Find ways to communicate and keep your name top of mind. This doesn’t necessarily mean promotional strategies, but by creating value in this chaotic time. Examples include sharing tips for staying safe, humor, and uplifting stories. Become a beacon of hope in a dark time.

Control employee expenses

As you examine your business, look at how you can control expenses related to employees. Can you temporarily reduce expenses by delaying the hire of any additional employees? Perhaps use freelancers or contractors to temporarily reduce work-load. The State of Minnesota has put special concessions in place to alleviate some of the unemployment burdens faced by small businesses.

Spend every dollar as if it were your last

Adopt the concept that you need to protect the lifeblood of your business: cash. Whether it’s cash going out in the form of expenses or cash coming in from revenues, cash is king.

Economic downturns can be chaotic and uncertain. Know that you are not in this alone. Our region of business leaders, economic developers, and Chambers of Commerce are pulling together and collaborating on various ways we can be of support to small businesses in our region.

The Small Business Development Center and the Strategic Partnership Division at Minnesota State University are here to support you. We can help you with cash flow, financial analysis, and business strategies to help you survive and thrive. You have the energy and resolve needed to weather this storm. We can get through this together.

To set up an appointment, contact the SBDC at Minnesota State University, Mankato at (mailto:) or 507-389-8875.

Safely Reopening and Returning Work: MN DEED’s guidance for what businesses and workers should know

As Minnesota businesses begin the process of reopening and safely returning people to work, there are a lot of questions. You can find the most common questions at

Most importantly, businesses must be safe and healthy for their workers and customers.

  • Businesses must follow all CDC and MDH guidance and OSHA standards about creating a safe and healthy environment for workers and customers.
  • A business may not take adverse action (including terminating, laying off or other retaliatory action) against a worker for raising safety and health concerns, refusing to work under conditions they reasonably believe are unsafe or unhealthy related to COVID-19, participating in union activities concerning work place safety and health issues, filing a safety and health complaint, or participating in an OSHA investigation.

COVID-19 Preparedness Plan

In order to reopen, any non-Critical Sector business or retail establishment must have a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in place to protect the health and safety of their workers.

  • Plans are extremely important to provide direction on how workers are going to remain safe. To help in the process, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), DEED, and the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) have developed a template plan and guidance that businesses can use as a starting point. Businesses aren’t required to use this template, but a business’ plan does need to follow CDC and MDH guidelines and OSHA standards.
  • Wherever possible, workers should continue to work from home.
  • Businesses are encouraged to consult with workers on the development of their plans – it will make the plans better, proactively address many worker concerns and ensure workers are invested in the new norms businesses are setting.
  • We aren’t requiring businesses to submit their plans to the state for approval, but businesses should be prepared to provide a copy of your plan if requested.
  • Copies of the plan must be shared with workers in advance of reopening and posted at the workplace.

COVID-19 Accommodations for Workers

Once a COVID-19 Preparedness plan is in place and workers are called back to work, anticipate that some may be nervous or worried about returning to the workplace. Be flexible and provide necessary accommodations for workers.

  • This is an uncertain and challenging time, and many workers may have concerns about being back at work. Workers should also not have to sacrifice their health and safety for economic security. Businesses are encouraged to be as flexible as possible with workers, be responsive to requests for accommodations and ensure that you have provided appropriate protective gear in accordance with CDC and MDH guidance and OSHA standards – such as gloves if handling goods or money with customers, and non-medical face coverings.

Some employees may not be able to return to work.

  • Executive Order 20-05 provides a list of COVID-19 exemptions for workers, including those with underlying health issues or caretaking responsibilities.
  • Workers who qualify for these exemptions do not need to return to work and will continue to qualify for Unemployment Insurance benefits.

If a worker feels that their employer is not operating with a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and/or not following health and safety protocols, there is action they can take.

  • Any worker who believes that their workplace is not following their COVID-19 Preparedness Plan or is not following CDC or Minnesota Department of Health guidelines is encouraged to attempt to resolve their concerns directly with their employer.
  • If the worker is not successful in that attempt, is not comfortable raising their concerns with their employer, or has additional concerns about the safety of their workplace, the worker should contact Minnesota OSHA at 651-284-5050 or
  • If a worker raises concerns with an employer about not operating with a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and/or not following health and safety protocols and the employer does not address the concern in a reasonable amount of time, the worker can quit and not lose unemployment insurance eligibility benefits as long as it was reasonable to do so.
  • If a worker is fired for raising concerns about workplace safety–either with Minnesota OSHA or directly with their employer–they will not lose unemployment benefits eligibility.

State Unemployment Insurance law prevents the state from continuing to pay benefits to those who are no longer eligible.

  • Workers who are offered the opportunity to return to work and don’t qualify for an exemption under Executive Order 20-05 or state unemployment insurance law are no longer eligible to receive benefits.
  • We ask every applicant on a weekly basis whether they have refused an offer of suitable employment. Providing inaccurate information may result in an applicant being held overpaid for unemployment benefits.
  • When workers return to work or want to stop requesting unemployment benefits, no additional notification is needed. They simply should stop requesting weekly benefits in their unemployment insurance account. Some additional information about unemployment and returning to work can be found here.
  • Under Minnesota law, businesses can “raise an issue” regarding a former employee’s eligibility for unemployment insurance
  • Raising an issue is the way to tell us that you have a question regarding an employee’s eligibility for unemployment. You can find more information about how to raise an issue here.
  • Businesses must follow all CDC and MDH guidance and OSHA standards about creating a safe and healthy environment for workers and customers. For non-Critical Sector businesses, this includes having a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.
  • A business may not take adverse action (including terminating, laying off or other retaliatory action) against a worker for raising safety and health concerns, refusing to work under conditions they reasonably believe are unsafe or unhealthy related to COVID-19, participating in union activities concerning work place safety and health issues, filing a safety and health complaint, or participating in an OSHA investigation.

If a worker or employer notifies the department that an offer to return to work was refused, we will review the applicant’s eligibility for unemployment. What happens next?

  • DEED will mail questionnaires out to both the applicant and employer about why the applicant did not return to work – including questions about the applicant’s medical situation. A doctor’s note may be requested during any follow-up process for additional information.
  • Once the department has enough information to make a decision, a written determination about the applicant’s continued eligibility for unemployment will be provided.
  • At this point, either the applicant or employer can file an appeal within 20 calendar days. Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Law provides an opportunity for a fair and impartial hearing to any party who disagrees with a determination issued by the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program.
  • A telephone hearing and an appeals process follow from there, which will be outlined in detail to any worker or employer in this situation.

We know that both businesses and workers want to make the process of returning to work safe, effective, and fair. Thoughtful planning, clear communication, and a collaborative and generous spirit are going to get us through this difficult time.

We hope these guidelines make it clear how this process will work, and we encourage everyone to get more information in the FAQ section of

Small Business COVID-19 Reopening Tips

Small Business PPP Loan Update

The SBA’s updated numbers for the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program funding indicates the Great Lakes Region, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, has supported nearly 308,000 small businesses and non-profits with a total of $22.8 billion in approved PPP loans.  As of May 1, 2020, 37,267 Minnesota small businesses have been approved for $2.2 billion in second round of PPP funding.  In total, 83,650 Minnesota small businesses will benefit from $11.2 billion to date from PPP loans.


The SBA and Treasury continue to provide updates to the FAQ’s for PPP Loans.  Today’s updates include:

  • Will a borrower’s PPP loan forgiveness amount be reduced if the borrower laid off an employee, offered to rehire the same employee, but the employee declined the offer?
  • Can a seasonal employer that elects to use a 12-week period between May 1, 2019 and September 15, 2019 to calculate its maximum PPP loan amount?
  • Do nonprofit hospitals qualify as “nonprofit organizations” under section 1102 of the CARES Act?
For more information on these and other questions, please visit this link.

EIDL and Advance Open to Agriculture

SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza announced today that agricultural businesses are now eligible for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance programs.

SBA’s EIDL portal will reopen today and begin accepting new EIDL applications on a limited basis only, in order to provide unprecedented relief to U.S. agricultural businesses. For agricultural businesses that submitted an EIDL loan application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will move forward and process these applications without the need for re-applying.

All other EIDL loan applications that were submitted before the portal stopped accepting new applications on April 15 will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis.

Emotional Well-Being During the COVID-19 Outbreak

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release regarding the emotional distress and anxiety that is often brought on by public health events. Feeling anxious, confused, overwhelmed, or powerless is common during an infections disease outbreak, especially in the face of a virus with which the general public may be unfamiliar. The following outlines a few tips and overall health and wellness information from the press release:

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
  • Irritability
  • Increased depressive symptoms
  • Increased anxiety symptoms

How you can support yourself and others:

  • Set a limit on media consumption, including social media, local or national news.
  • Stay Active. Make sure to get enough sleep and rest. Stretch, exercise and make time to unwind.
  • Stay hydrated and avoid excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol.
  • Eat healthy foods when possible.
  • Connect with loved ones and others who may be experiencing stress about the outbreak. Talk about your feelings and enjoy conversation unrelated to the outbreak.
  • Read, listen to a book on tape.
  • Take a bath, shower or practice meditation.
  • Do something nice for someone else.
  • Practice gratitude and choose a positive mindset.
To read the rest of the press release or for more news on the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, visit

Additional Small Business COVID-19 Resources

2021 Federal Government Response to COVID-19 Information
SBA 2021 Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources
SBA Disaster Assistance in Response to the Coronavirus
2021 Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) COVID-19 Information & Resources
US Chamber of Commerce COVID- 19 Business Preparedness Checklist
Minnesota State University, Mankato COVID-19 Information
Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry