This project is a finalist for the 2021 Golden GOVIT Awards in the Collaboration category. This project was completed by the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s legal and policy staff and was nominated by Anbar Ahmed.
In March 2020, services around Minnesota shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses closed their doors to prevent the disease’s spread. As the pandemic continued, businesses, especially in the food and beverage industry, were struggling.
In late November 2020, the governor and legislature started exploring additional ways to help these businesses. One idea was to send relief payments directly to impacted businesses.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue’s legal and policy staff took the lead in discussing options with the governor and legislature. They pulled in Revenue’s Sales and Use Tax and Tax Research Divisions to research feasibility of certain eligibility requirements. Led by Revenue, discussions with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) helped refine criteria for businesses.
Legislation to help businesses impacted by COVID-19 passed and was signed into law on December 16, 2020. Among the provisions, Revenue was authorized to send relief payments directly to businesses.
DEED sent us a list of Minnesota businesses registered with them for unemployment insurance. Since we have different record management systems, significant coordination with DEED was required to ensure their dataset would work with ours. Once compatibility was resolved, we used our records to filter DEED’s list based on the eligibility criteria, which included:
• Being a gym, bowling center, or specific type of food or beverage provider
• Filing monthly or quarterly Sales Tax returns in 2019 and 2020
• Having $10,000 worth of sales in 2019
• Showing a 30% drop in taxable sales from 2019
The final list of eligible businesses was shared with our Tax Operations Division. They worked with MNIT Partnering with Revenue to create a new indicator in our tax management software. This allowed us to track relief payments separately, without affecting our normal processing.
Revenue also established an inquiry process. This would allow businesses determined to not be eligible for the relief payments to request a review of their situation.
The Communications Division finalized messaging for businesses. A webpage explaining the payments was created, and talking points were drafted for expected questions.
Our Business Planning and Improvement unit was tasked with building a dashboard that tracked payments in real-time.
Once all the logistics were in place, we began working on issuing payments. Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) helped us test a file with payment information. After testing, MMB then shared the file with DEED, who printed and mailed the checks to impacted businesses.
Payments were sent in four batches. By February 16, 2021, 3,899 businesses received a business relief payment.
Along with general queries about the payments, Revenue received 1,288 inquiry requests through our online form. After reviewing these, 19 additional payments were sent.
Collaboration throughout the process – from idea generation to finalizing logistics to sending out payments – ensured this initiative was a success. The governor, legislature, DEED, MMB, MNIT, and many divisions within Revenue coordinated in a very short time frame to provide relief to businesses.
Collaboration throughout the process – from idea generation to finalizing logistics to sending out payments – ensured this initiative was a success. The governor, legislature, DEED, MMB, MNIT, and many divisions within Revenue coordinated in a very short time frame to provide relief to businesses. As a result, over $67 million of business relief payments were sent to businesses impacted by COVID-19!