Greetings from Acton Township, where I continue to work on legislative issues from home as the Stay at Home order continues.
This weekend certainly will have a different feel to it as the Easter holiday arrives and, instead of attending religious services and hosting large family gatherings, we will be relying on technology to stay connected. Karen and I wish you and your family a safe, healthy and blessed weekend.
There once again is a lot of legislative news to report regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are some of the high points from this week:
Stay at Home order update
Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday extended Minnesota’s Stay at Home order until May 4. He indicated the extension will push the low end of the peak into the range where we will have enough ventilators and ICU beds in Minnesota to accommodate patients. The governor also announced flexibility for more businesses to continue operating, including lawn care, landscaping, agricultural equipment repair, garden centers, nurseries and more. It will be helpful that at least some of our workers can get back on the job.
Workers’ compensation expanded
The Minnesota House on Tuesday approved a bill (H.F. 4537) ensuring first responders and health care workers receive their full workers’ compensation benefits and coverage in the event they test positive for COVID-19. The move addresses concerns that damages suffered from the virus would not be covered by the state’s current no-fault workers’ compensation system, a form of insurance that provides salary replacement and medical benefits for workers injured in the course of their jobs. This is an issue that needed to be addressed because our front-line workers need to know workers’ compensation will be there if they and their families need it. Click here for more details of the bill.
Disaster loans for farmers
The Minnesota Disaster Recovery Loan Program is now accessible to farmers who are suffering financial damages related to the COVID-19 outbreak after the Legislature expanded access to the funds. We need to be flexible, providing common-sense discretion where we can while still maintaining the integrity and spirit of programs such as this. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture indicates program dollars can be used to “replace livestock or flocks, make building improvements, or cover the loss of revenue. Loan proceeds may also be used to repair or replace septic and water systems, and replace destroyed agricultural buildings.” More can be found at the MDA website, or by calling (651) 201-6666.
Two programs for veterans
On March 26, the Minnesota Legislature created two new programs to assist Veterans who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Disaster Relief Grants and Special Needs Grants both have been activated specifically in response to mitigate the economic effects COVID-19 is having on our veterans and their families. Our veterans make enormous sacrifices for us and it is important we lend them a hand during difficult times. Full information can be found at this link.
New insulin option
A new, low-cost option is available for people who are having trouble affording insulin. Eli Lilly and Company pharmaceuticals has introduced the Lilly Insulin Value Program, allowing anyone with commercial insurance and those without insurance to fill their monthly prescription of Lilly insulin for $35. Lilly indicates in a press release that the program was motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and also says it has no plans for discontinuing the program in the future. Call the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center at (833) 808-1234 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, or click here for more.
Unemployment insurance increase
The Department of Employment and Economic Development announces it has authorized the first payments of the temporary additional compensation of $600/week for people receiving unemployment insurance benefits. DEED indicates no additional steps are necessary for people receiving unemployment to receive the increase; it will take place automatically. The week beginning March 29 is the first week for which you can get the additional $600, with those requests having started April 5. This website has more details on this and other unemployment insurance subjects.
I hope this information helps and, as always, let me know how I can help.