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Senate passes $484 billion deal to replenish small-business loan program

Plus: DFLers in Minnesota Senate push for vote-by-mail; U of M announces tuition freeze; seven people found to have contracted coronavirus during Wisconsin’s primary;  and more.

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REUTERS/Tom Brenner
In the Washington Post, Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim write: “The Senate passed a $484 billion deal Tuesday to replenish a small-business loan program that’s been overrun by demand and to devote more money to hospitals and coronavirus testing. … The legislation … would increase funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by $310 billion. It would also boost a separate small-business emergency grant and loan program by $60 billion, and direct $75 billion to hospitals and $25 billion to a new coronavirus testing program. The House is expected to approve the measure Thursday.

In the Star Tribune, Ryan Faircloth writes: “University of Minnesota students won’t have to budget for a tuition increase in the next academic year. For the first time in years, the university will freeze tuition for most students at its five campuses. The Board of Regents on Tuesday unanimously approved President Joan Gabel’s tuition freeze proposal, which administrators say will provide financial relief to current students and help lure in new students during the pandemic.

In the New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Caitlin Dickerson write: “President Trump said on Tuesday that he would order a temporary halt in issuing green cards to prevent people from immigrating to the United States, but he backed away from plans to suspend guest worker programs after business groups exploded in anger at the threat of losing access to foreign labor. … Trump said that his order would initially be in effect for 60 days, but that he might extend it ‘based on economic conditions at the time.’

WCCO-TV reports: “ Jennie-O/Hormel announced Tuesday evening that some employees at their Willmar turkey processing plant have tested positive for COVID-19. Officials did not disclose the exact number of employees, but said they, and anyone they interacted with at the plant, are in self-quarantine. Officials added that all sick employees will receive 100% of their pay and benefits while they recover.

At MPR, Tim Pugmire reports, “Democrats in the Minnesota Senate are pressing majority Republicans to take steps to protect the health of voters in this year’s election. They highlighted a proposal Tuesday that would give voters new alternatives, including the relocation of some polling places and a temporary expansion of voting by mail. Democrats want ballots sent automatically to registered voters. … Republicans oppose the proposed expansion of voting by mail. Senator Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, the chair of the State Elections Committee, said the state should instead increase the use of the no-excuse absentee voting option that is already in law.”

This from Reuters, “At least seven people contracted the coronavirus during Wisconsin’s primary election on April 7, Milwaukee health officials said on Tuesday, confirming fears that holding in-person voting during the health crisis put people at risk. The seven cases include six voters and one poll worker in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city, where nearly 200 voting locations were pared back to five and there were hours-long lines to cast ballots, the office of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik confirmed.”

At the Pioneer Press, Bob Shaw writes, “The 2020 State Fair isn’t showing symptoms — yet. Health experts, however, say that the impact of coronavirus could overtake the Fair yet this year. … So far, Fair officials say plans are moving ahead — for now — as they would in a normal year. Fair general manager Jerry Hammer declined a request for an interview, but issued an emailed statement: “We’re not yet at a point where we need to make a decision on holding this year’s Fair, and we’re not exactly sure when that will be.”

Says the Star Tribune’s Mike Hughlett, “Four Minnesota ethanol plants are idled and many more have throttled back production as COVID-19 has sapped gasoline demand, crushing the biofuel industry. U.S. ethanol production has hit an all-time low. Nearly 30% of the nation’s 204 biofuel plants have been idled since March 1, while many others have slashed production.”

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MPR’s Martin Moylan says, “at this point, industry observers and players say there’s plenty of meat for consumers. Most pork and other meat processing plants are still operating and there are sizable stocks of meat in storage. ‘We can still bring home the bacon. You’re still gonna have pork in your store,’ said Jennifer van de Ligt, director of the Food Protection and Defense Institute at the University of Minnesota.”

For KSTP-TV, Eric Chaloux says, “A hair and spa trade organization is making a pitch to convince Minnesota officials that restrictions can be eased at some point to allow salons to open during the COVID-19 pandemic. A separate group of several salon owners were scheduled to speak over the phone Tuesday with the Minnesota Board of Cosmetology about safety changes since they have all been closed down due to the coronavirus.”

Says Lisa Ianucci for MarketWatch, “To the growing list of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, add this one: the housing market. If you’re trying to sell a home or buy one or just think you might list your residence at some point, you’ll need to rethink things. … In an April 5-6, 2020 survey by the National Association of Realtors, 90% of members said buyer interest has declined since the coronavirus outbreak. Also, 59% said buyers are delaying home purchases for a couple of months and 57% said sellers are delaying home sales for a couple of months. Homes that are on the market are often just sitting there.”