ALBERT LEA, Minnesota - Local business owners are concerned about their future success, especially now following Governor Walz' latest extension to the state's 'stay at home' order.
Now, they're taking their case to a former Congressman who is eyeing the U.S. Senate.
Beginning earlier this month, former Congressman Jason Lewis, who represented the state's 2nd congressional district from 2017 to 2019, and currently vying for the Republican nomination to challenge Senator Tina Smith for the Senate this Fall, has been criss-crossing the state from Duluth to the Twin Cities to Rochester on the 'Reopening Minnesota for Business' tour, hearing from business owners who may lose everything if the Governor's order is prolonged.
"These resorts and these restaurants up North aren't going to survive another season without revenue."
On Thursday, he took his case to Albert Lea during a roundtable discussion with small business owners.
"The cure is starting to become worse than the disease when you take a look at elective procedures that are being put off, even cancer biopsies. You're looking at mom and pop businesses like on Broadway in Albert Lea that won't reopen again. Dreams are being shattered for students, business people, and that eventually is going to have a greater social pathology or health cost than the virus. We're coming into the summer season, the virus is leveling off, if not dropping. This is the time to reopen Minnesota and enough is enough."
Despite moves like the Paycheck Protection Program aimed to keep individuals on their feet, Lewis says that temporary measures are not sustainable long-term.
"The government can provide temporary measures, but you can't do this in perpetuity. The total federal budget is $4.2 trillion...we're going to have a deficit in one year larger than the entire budget."
Realtor Robert Hoffman was one of several small business owners in attendance at Thursday's roundtable. He also owns and manages properties in town, and while his tenants have been able to pay for rent and other utilities, he's concerned about the impact the longer the order is in place.
"Maintenance still has to happen, emergencies will still happen, management still has to happen. The mortgages on our buildings that we own are not forgiven. If a few places decided not to pay rent, everybody would be homeless through a foreclosure ultimately."
He's heard from business leaders in the community, including the owner and operator of a food truck, who is concerned that if events like fairs, festivals and concerts would be cancelled for the year, it would have a negative impact.
"She started it a few years ago...she got the business up and running after winning a competition, and now here she is a year later wondering the fate of her competition winning business."
While many states are implementing a multi-phase approach to reopen businesses, he's in favor of customers and owners having their personal choice.
"Let then everybody decide, 'do I want to go to those restaurants yet? Do I want to list my house for sale yet? Do I want to get my haircut yet?' But not limit them to make that decision."
Lewis will be in the Brainerd area on Friday.