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First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Music venues suffering from empty stages during the pandemic can expect to see cash from a new federal grant program "very soon," U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar tells Axios.

What they're saying: "We knew it would take a while, [but] right now, I'm not hearing any red flags about [the implementation]," Klobuchar, lead sponsor of the Save our Stages Act, said during an Axios Smart Take event.

The backdrop: The provision, included in the December coronavirus relief package, set aside $15 billion for independent venues that lost significant revenue due to pandemic closures.

  • While the Small Business Administration is still working on getting the application process live, Klobuchar said high interest in a recent info session underscored the need for assistance: "We're looking at further help."

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

Go deeper

Feb 10, 2021 - Axios Events

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: More help for women and Black-owned businesses hurt by pandemic is needed

Axios Events

The government should provide more help to Black and minority-owned businesses suffering during the pandemic, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said at an Axios event on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Klobuchar said small communities have been "hit hard" during the pandemic, and women and minority-owned businesses were late to receive financial recovery aid.

  • As Axios' Naomi Shavin wrote in May, structural barriers and a lack of "cash buffers" during the first round of PPP loans made surviving a pandemic particularly difficult for black and minority-owned businesses.

What she's saying: "And we know who's been hit hard by this pandemic, whether it's because they're essential workers, whether it's because they're laid off, whether it's because of the death rate and where you've seen these higher mortality rates with the minority communities or whether it's where the aid has gone."

Klobuchar said she's pushing to include a venture capital proposal that would encourage more women and minority entrepreneurship in the next relief plan.

"No one is better off if we have a whole group in our society who's been hurt more by this pandemic than others," she said.

Of note: Klobuchar also said she sees a path to passing the $15 minimum wage legislation through reconciliation in the upcoming COVID bill.

  • "You've had a lot of these minimum wage increases passed in jurisdictions across the country and not just in blue states," she said.

Watch the full event here.

Shoppers still sparse at Twin Cities' Mall of America

Data: Orbital Insight; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Nearly 11 months after its temporary pandemic closure, foot traffic at the Mall of America in the Twin Cities appears to be way down.

State of play: Despite an increase since reopening in June, average activity levels are 45% below the February 2020 baseline, according to cell phone data analyzed by the geospatial analytics company Orbital Insight and provided to Axios.

Updated Feb 10, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: Small Business Recovery in Minneapolis

Axios Twin Cities reporters Torey Van Oot and Nick Halter hosted a virtual conversation on Black-owned businesses, PPP loans and the future of the economy in Minneapolis featuring Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D - Minn.) and Du Nord Craft Spirits CEO and owner Chris Montana.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar discussed how the government should provide more help to Black and minority-owned businesses.

  • On pushing to include a venture capital proposal focusing on women and minorities in the next relief plan: "I'm actually leading an effort to make sure that we focus on women as well as minorities [in the next PPP stimulus package] to make sure that they're at the front of the line. When the next PPP money goes out, it's looking at [targeted] programs to encourage entrepreneurship."
  • On seeing a path forward for a $15 minimum wage: "I think the time has come. And so that's something that obviously is a priority for President Biden...We're in a place where we can get it done."

Chris Montana discussed his experience as a small business owner in Minneapolis and highlighted the importance of having institutions mirror the communities that they serve.

  • "I think that all of our institutions — government, business, social engagement — should all be reflective of the community. Our business community really isn't. And because kids like me grow up not seeing examples of people in boardrooms and law firms or distilleries, we don't know that's on our horizon. I think that that needs to change."

Axios Chief Revenue Officer Fabricio Drumond hosted a View from the Top segment with Facebook VP and Head of Scaled Solutions of Global Business Marketing Judy Toland, who discussed the economic impact of the pandemic on small businesses.

  • "The pandemic has not affected all small businesses equally. We've seen that Black-owned businesses are closing at twice the rate of others since the start of the pandemic. And when they are saying open, their sales are decreasing at a higher rate by a rate of 30%."

Thank you Facebook for sponsoring this event.