St. Peter moved quickly to set up a loan program for its businesses as they faced the threat of closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mankato soon followed suit.

These unprecedented programs are necessary in unprecedented times. Most businesses have seen a near total loss of revenue through no fault of their own. One cannot likely even buy affordable insurance to protect against a pandemic.

And the federal programs, including the small business loan program and the Payroll Protection Act, were difficult for Main Street businesses to access, either because the money had run out or there were bureaucratic hurdles too difficult to clear.

Both Mankato and St. Peter programs are relatively easy to access and have interest rates that are low or nonexistent. Payback terms are very favorable.

More Mankato businesses, especially bars and restaurants, may need more assistance with the state continuing to ban in-house dining for an undetermined length of time. With only patio dining allowed, many will have to buy patio furniture for an investment that may be only short-term.

Many small Mankato bars and restaurants may opt against patio dining due to its cost and uncertain return on investment.

The Mankato City Council will discuss options to help businesses at its Tuesday night meeting. The council may discuss changes to accommodate more outside dining or even consider blocking off streets to allow for the distancing required by outside dining.

All such plans should be given serious consideration. Mankato commerce, especially downtown, thrives on the business of bars and restaurants.

Such government assistance to business has not been a point of priority in the past. It should be a priority in the COVID-19 era.

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