David Shaffer, MnSEIA Executive Director, Statement on COVID-19
"Every time that the solar industry has faced hurdles, we have come out on top, whether it be through clear victory, innovation or perseverance. We have come out of each challenge with more momentum. I see no reason why we cannot do that with today's crisis, and I expect that we will." - David Shaffer, Executive Director
How MnSEIA Responded
MnSEIA is actively working with partners, member companies, and government officials to ensure that the solar industry and its workers can continue to grow despite COVID-19. While we can no longer go to the Capitol to lobby, we are instead remotely working on policy reformation; we are taking up more national policy issues, as we work with other state SEIAs and National SEIA; and we are pivoting to an organization that supports small businesses and digital education.
- On March 20th, we sent this letter which requests that "electrical work" and "construction work" be deemed "essential work" and thus exempt from a "Stay at Home" or "Shelter in Place" order. We are proud to say this effort paid off and energy work is considered an essential industry under Governor Walz's Stay at Home order.
- MnSEIA contributed to an article by Frank Jossi and Midwest Energy News about extending Xcel Energy's Solar Rewards program to give a needed boost to Minnesota's economy and solar sector. MnSEIA's Executive Director, David Shaffer, was interviewed for this article and highlights MnSEIA's continued to work on this important topic.
- On March 27th, MnSEIA and Clean Energy Economy Minnesota (CEEM) sent this letter to the state legislature to request an extension of Xcel Energy's Solar*Rewards program, using appropriations from the Renewable Development Account (RDA). Extending the Solar*Rewards program would give a crucial boost to Minnesota's economy and solar sector during COVID-19.
- We wrote this legal memorandum (updated on April 10th) that concludes solar workers are considered essential workers under Governor Walz's Stay at Home order.
- We wrote this letter (updated on April 10th) for solar workers to print and carry with them, in the event they are approached by enforcement agencies, to show they are essential workers during the Stay at Home order.
- David Shaffer was interviewed for a Star Tribune article about Minnesota's growing solar economy, the increase in business and suburban solar projects, and our community solar garden program that's one of the best in the U.S. Articles like this help remind the public and our legislators that the solar industry in Minnesota is an important part of our economy.
- Executive Director David Shaffer was featured in an article by Midwest Energy News about the current state of the solar industry during COVID-19. This article explains why Shaffer is still optimistic about solar in Minnesota and what solar companies are doing to keep their workers safe.
- Regarding solar inspections during COVID-19:
We are in the process of contacting solar inspectors for our member's counties. Currently, Minnesota does not have the capacity for remote inspections. However, electrical inspectors are considered essential under Minnesota Executive Order 20-33. Therefore, in-person inspections will continue with standard COVID-19 precautions.
Resources for your business
MnSEIA is here to support your business during the uncertainty of COVID-19. Here are some helpful resources for businesses and employers as we continue to recover:
This document is a compilation of resources from the DEED, MDE, DHS, MDH, DHS, MHFA, the Courts, and the Attorney General’s office. It contains basic information about available services in the state and may be a worthwhile 2-pager to send to employees that have questions about childcare, food, housing and other essential services.
This guide by the U.S Chamber of Commerce explains the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and answers questions on who is eligible, what lenders are looking for, how much you can borrow, and more.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has put together a large list of resources, including on-demand webinars, guidance for business interruption insurance, worker protection summaries, information on small business loans, and more for businesses, employers, and employees. The office is updating the toolkit daily as new information is released. So you may want to check back regularly. They are also providing a daily briefing of all COVID-19 related policy updates.
The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) has a resource page with information on the required COVID-19 Preparedness Plan for businesses that plan to reopen or send their employees back to the office, Minnesota OSHA handouts and resources, information on worker's compensation, and more.
The Minnesota DEED office has a number of resources available on their website, including information on loans (like their Small Business Emergency Loans) and unemployment insurance. They also have information on critical business exemptions, if you are looking for further clarity on currently appropriate work activities. DEED has also published an FAQ for state compliance and tips as you adjust your workforce while our Stay at Home Order and prepare to send employees back to work.
The Minnesota Unemployment Insurance website has a helpful FAQ answering questions on who qualifies for unemployment benefits and how this affects the employer, common tax questions, resources for businesses, and questions regarding paid time off, severance packages, Social Security, and more.
Small businesses can now apply for disaster loans through the Small Business Association (SBA) for economic injury during COVID-19.
The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing during the pandemic, according to a release.
These loans are also available in surrounding counties in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Eligible businesses may apply through the SBA website.
The Star Tribune is refreshing this site multiple times a day, for free, with the latest updates for Minnesotans on state and federal policy changes, announcements from Governor Walz, testing changes, new studies and research, protocols for businesses, and more. They are also tracking state and national COVID-19 cases and answer questions on how to best prevent and prepare for the virus.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act created a new employee retention tax credit for employers who are closed, partially closed, or experiencing significant revenue losses as a result of COVID-19. This guide explains the program and who is eligible.
As businesses begin to reopen and consider bringing employees back to work, many are weighing the benefits of working from home, permanently. This guide walks through the pros and cons of shifting your business to work from home or sending your employees back to the office.
SEIA Summer Webinar Series: Solar Leading the Recovery
Join SEIA staff experts every Friday to discuss state and federal policy developments, ways that clean energy can contribute to economic recovery, and what’s in store for a post-COVID future.
IREC Webinar Recording: Continuing Safe Permitting and Inspection Practices during COVID-19
IREC hosted a webinar on no-touch permitting and inspection during COVID-19. The recording and slides are now available for general viewing.
To view the recording, click on the button in the upper right corner of the web page to register. Once you have registered, you will be able to access the materials from Monday's webinar, as well as a variety of other clean energy training materials.
General COVID-19 Information
Easy access links to essential national and state COVID-19 information.
- $330 million COVID-19 spending bill
- Forbes: Tax Law Allows Employers to Make Tax Free Payments to Employees to Cover COVID-19 Costs
- MN Department of Health: COVID-19 Information for Businesses and Employers
- MN Department of Labor and Industry: COVID-19 FAQ for Employers and Employees
- U.S Department of Labor's Resource Site and News