Grand Casino Mille Lacs has been forced to lay off the majority of its workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grand Casino Mille Lacs has been forced to lay off the majority of its workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mille Lacs County’s largest employer, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (Grand Casinos), has been forced to temporarily furlough the majority of its employees. 
 
After an initial 4-week closure period during the Governor’s shelter-in-place order in which the company continued to pay its associates in full, Grand Casino was forced to extend its closure beyond April 13, said Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures Chief Communication Officer Sarah Barten. 
 
“We will continue to reassess our operations, taking into account the guidance of local governments and global health organizations to determine when our casinos reopen, but only after the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s Executive Order 2020-05 expires or is lifted,” said Barten. “A reopen date has not been announced yet, but updates will be posted on Grand Casino’s website.”
 
As far as the furlough of its employees, Barten said it was a tough decision to make. “For furloughed associates enrolled in the company’s health care plans, Grand Casino will pay the employer portion of the insurance premiums for 60 days or until their return to work, whichever comes first,” said Barten. “The temporary furloughs will allow associates to seek state unemployment benefits, including federal benefits, while helping the company to reduce costs to ensure that it can bring back its full workforce when its doors reopen. Our hope is to bring our associates back to work as soon as it is safe and practical. In addition to furloughs, Grand Casino also separated employment with other associates for various reasons.”
 
When asked if the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe would consider re-opening before Gov. Walz’s shelter-in-place order lifts, Barten responded, “As a sovereign nation, the Governor’s executive order does not apply to the Mille Lacs Band reservation and trust land. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s executive order for the reservation and trust land is similar to the Governor’s order. We will not reopen until Band officials determine it is safe to lift the Executive Order, and even then, our decision to reopen will consider the health and welfare of associates, patrons, Band members, and the communities in which we do business.
 
Grand Casino was the first tribal casino in Minnesota to issue a temporary closure – before any executive orders – due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, and to do its part to slow the spread of the virus in East Central Minnesota.”  
 
Barten added, “As hard as these decisions were— we believe we will not only endure this crisis but thrive again for years to come.”

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