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Congressman pushes for more COVID relief, drawing purpose in part from Rochester business owner

"That money that dad had set aside, it's not there.'"

Posted: Sep 23, 2021 1:43 AM
Updated: Sep 23, 2021 5:46 AM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - A Minnesota congressman is working to secure aid for small businesses still struggling amid the pandemic.

U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips is spearheading a push on Capitol Hill to craft a new targeted relief package aimed at industries most impacted by coronavirus. Phillips says despite the funds that have so-far flowed from congress to American entrepreneurs, many hard-hit businesses feel they've fallen through the cracks, and lawmakers must do more to help.

"Democrats and Republicans alike understand the importance of small businesses to our country. They're the backbone of our economy. We can't allow our nation's Main Street businesses and community gathering places to suffer when we have both the tools and the resources necessary to keep them afloat. Too many lives and livelihoods, not to mention the American economy, depend on the strength of our small businesses, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft a relief package that meets the challenges of this moment," Phillips said.

During his announcement, Rep. Phillips shared small business committees in the House and Senate had already started working on a possible package, though the scope and status of their discussions are unclear at this time. One thing that is clear, however, is a recent meeting with members of the live event industry made a lasting impact on Phillips, which he carried back with him to Washington.

"Two weeks ago, Representative Angie Craig and I met with small business owners in the Twin Cities, who are part of the live events industry, which has also been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic," Rep. Phillips told his colleagues on the House Small Business Committee. "Many wept, literally wept, as they shared their heartbreaking stories of their lifelong dreams and hard-earned savings slowly slipping away as the weeks and months have dragged on."

One of those who took part in the emotional meeting was Rochester's Brandon Helgeson, owner of Big Bang Company.

"I'm still getting a little choked up about it," Helgeson said, recalling listening to the remarks his colleagues planned to make as they prepared for their session with lawmakers.

While an unplanned trip to the emergency room prevented Helgeson from speaking at the meeting in-person, others passed along his message, which recounted how pandemic impacts led him to one of the most difficult moments of his life.

"A lot of the money I planned on taking in, with a lot of that money, I planned on paying my son's college tuition off," Helgeson said, holding back tears. "He'd just graduated. That was kind of always the deal I'd made with him - when he graduated, as long as he didn't screw around too much, pardon the term, but there'd be a chunk of change there, you know, for him when he graduated."

He continued, "one of the toughest conversations I ever had to have was, you know, calling my son and saying, 'hey, we had $150,000 in deposits that were supposed to be here by April, we got 10 [thousand]. You know, so that money that dad had set aside, it's not there.'"

Helgeson adds it was "extremely tough hearing very similar stories," which have become more common in his field over the past 18 months. As far as what a potential relief package should look like, the Med City event entrepreneur says in addition tweaking existing small business programs, "I'd really like to see it make sense, where it goes to those sole proprietors, it goes to the individual gig workers, but that it does make sense. I mean, to just give away money just doesn't make sense, but to make sure that we can see that we're not asking necessarily for handout, we're asking for hand up."

"I'm not thinking that I need to get more money than I would have made, I'm not thinking that I need to have a lot of money, I'm just thinking that we need to have some things in place that keep a business like mine, that's been around for 30 plus years, afloat."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 945445

Reported Deaths: 9823
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1843762065
Ramsey766441059
Dakota69982596
Anoka66370596
Washington42195370
Stearns34679289
St. Louis30635423
Scott26894189
Wright26779230
Olmsted23165132
Sherburne19616130
Carver1733872
Clay12359110
Blue Earth1187271
Rice11789141
Crow Wing11523125
Chisago1024181
Kandiyohi10074109
Otter Tail10046132
Benton9386128
Goodhue844399
Beltrami8365101
Douglas8084101
Itasca7930102
Mower751350
McLeod743584
Isanti729086
Winona725758
Steele708334
Morrison687582
Becker639075
Polk613688
Freeborn585447
Carlton565378
Mille Lacs548781
Nicollet539661
Lyon539262
Nobles531754
Pine531444
Cass512256
Todd501045
Brown481262
Le Sueur476536
Meeker445260
Martin397146
Waseca396934
Wabasha387610
Dodge374712
Hubbard363249
Roseau325532
Fillmore314715
Wadena308440
Redwood287646
Houston281117
Renville274351
Faribault267035
Sibley263019
Kanabec262439
Pennington257330
Cottonwood236333
Aitkin230952
Chippewa224843
Pope211610
Watonwan203921
Yellow Medicine191625
Koochiching183325
Rock179529
Swift178024
Stevens173311
Jackson164216
Clearwater161322
Marshall156322
Murray154511
Pipestone153729
Lake135524
Lac qui Parle125326
Wilkin123516
Mahnomen108914
Norman106410
Grant104910
Big Stone9686
Lincoln9075
Kittson77723
Red Lake72211
Traverse6126
Unassigned582124
Lake of the Woods5355
Cook3191

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 536275

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk81677809
Linn32838430
Scott27126295
Black Hawk22334382
Woodbury20736263
Johnson20150108
Dubuque18996243
Pottawattamie16215214
Dallas15573115
Story1398059
Unassigned105670
Warren8637107
Cerro Gordo8141125
Clinton7928115
Webster7419124
Des Moines7153106
Marshall675494
Muscatine6717117
Wapello6546145
Jasper630591
Sioux622477
Lee5977106
Marion567697
Buena Vista503449
Plymouth493388
Henry427155
Benton414760
Jones413564
Bremer403873
Boone397042
Washington395464
Carroll373355
Mahaska372366
Crawford355647
Jackson324047
Dickinson317555
Buchanan312743
Delaware303255
Clay297636
Kossuth293477
Fayette290356
Hardin289253
Tama282878
Page276133
Wright270050
Cedar269527
Winneshiek267744
Hamilton262757
Floyd261049
Clayton252360
Poweshiek242043
Harrison240979
Madison237425
Butler237346
Cass235667
Iowa234336
Jefferson228544
Mills225330
Hancock222840
Winnebago222339
Cherokee217347
Appanoose210157
Lyon209842
Allamakee209456
Calhoun199519
Shelby199542
Union197141
Humboldt188231
Franklin188031
Grundy186137
Chickasaw184522
Mitchell184343
Emmet180146
Louisa178653
Sac175626
Guthrie169338
Clarke163629
Montgomery163146
Keokuk152639
Palo Alto152332
Howard150624
Monroe144340
Ida134141
Greene128818
Davis126825
Lucas126127
Monona124940
Worth12309
Pocahontas122125
Adair118239
Osceola105718
Decatur104813
Taylor100914
Fremont98913
Van Buren95922
Wayne86125
Ringgold78429
Audubon77617
Adams5869
Rochester
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Mason City
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Albert Lea
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Austin
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