In early 2020, there was excitement about what the state might do with a legislative session that started with a balanced budget. Then the pandemic and anti-racism uprisings began. Discussions about how to fund reconstruction largely became divided along geographic and political lines.
The tally for the destruction done to about 1,500 Twin Cities businesses from arson and burglary is estimated at $500 million. Who pays for that destruction?
People caught on video starting fires and looting are from the Twin Cities, White Bear Lake, Andover, Lake Elmo, Staples, Brainerd, Rochester, as far away as Illinois, and more. (See related story)
About 60 percent of statewide revenue comes from taxpayers in Minneapolis and St. Paul. For some it seems fair, and beneficial in the long-term, for some state legislative funding to support the Twin Cities rebuild.
According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, the uprising is considered the second-most destructive case of unrest in U.S. history, after the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. The 1992 damage was $1 billion. President George H.W. Bush distributed $638 million in assistance within a month.
As part of his stop in Mankato in August, President Donald Trump told a KSTP reporter that the government rejected Minnesota’s request for aid to recover from the uprising after George Floyd was murdered by police as “punishment for being stupid.” This was in reference to Trump’s belief that force was not brought in fast enough to quell protests.
Yao Yang is one of many people working with businesses to try to rebuild what has been lost. As the executive director of the Hmong Chamber of Commerce and team member of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, Yang has been connecting about 50 businesses she works with to resources and hosting monthly virtual meetings for owners to share challenges. “The greatest need is uncertain. We don’t know what is in store for the next year. It is an unsettling feeling.”
She says there are a lot of pain points right now. “I have seen distrust, hostility, stress, and pain increase in our business community. It is a challenge staying positive during all of these crises.”
Derlee Moua, Director of Workforce Development for the Hmong American Partnership, has been involved with technical assistance to over 300 businesses and is distributing loans and grants to businesses seeking to recover from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. “With changing updates every day, business owners are not sure what is accurate and what they are eligible for. In many cases, government resources are exhausted by the time our clients are ready to apply.”
The Longfellow Community Council (LCC) has partnered with a consortium of consulting firms to assist residents and businesses of the Greater Longfellow neighborhoods near the South Minneapolis devastation to create a rebuild plan. Carly Swenson, LCC communications manager, reports: “The goal is to create a new vision for equitable, sustainable and resilient redevelopment while enhancing public spaces.”
Sarah Hernandez is a board member of the Northside Funders group, one of the organizations helping North Minneapolis recover from stress in the neighborhood that goes back many years, including the tornado of 2011. The impact of the pandemic and unrest after George Floyd’s murder “uncovered what we’ve known for decades. The rebuild is part of a larger ecosystem that needs attention.”
The good news, she adds, is that “Many people and groups have stepped up to rebuild. It speaks to the resilience of the community.”