This week was originally scheduled to be the legislative break, but of course things have changed. Today, the Legislature had its first-ever floor session with remote voting (see below), and the path for the remainder of the session is unclear. I’ll certainly continue to keep you posted. In the meantime, I hope that you are doing as well as can be expected and staying (virtually) connected to family, friends, and neighbors.
Be Counted in the 2020 Census
First, a non-COVID item: April 1 was Census Day. Now is the time to make sure that you’re counted! If you haven’t responded yet, please take a few minutes to do so online here. It’s easy, and it provides crucial data that determines how billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated. Additional information about the importance of the census is available here.
One particular incentive: Last that I heard, Minnesota was slightly ahead of Wisconsin in the race to have the highest response rate in the country. Let’s make sure to keep our #1 status!
A Week of Firsts
Like so many others, legislators are finding new ways to get our work done while following public health guidelines. Last Wednesday, I participated in what is believed to be the first-ever remote hearing in the history of the Legislature. At that hearing (audio here), the House Rules & Legislative Administration Committee outlined a new remote hearing process for House committees. Yesterday (Monday), I participated in the first usage of those rules, and the first-ever House committee hearing by video, in a hearing of the House Public Safety Committee. And finally, today’s floor session (see below) was the first with members participating and voting remotely.
Audio (and video, if applicable) of all remote hearings and floor sessions are broadcast live on the House website, YouTube, and Facebook.
Workers' Compensation for Health Care Workers and First Responders
Nurses, firefighters, and other health care workers and first responders are putting themselves at risk for us, so it’s critical that we have their backs. In particular, they should know that they will be covered by workers' compensation if they contract COVID-19. I recently joined a bipartisan group of legislators in continuing to push for this; see our letter here. I’m glad to report that an agreement was finally reached, and today lawmakers passed a bill that establishes a presumption that if these workers contract COVID-19, they did so during the course of their employment and thus are covered by workers' compensation.
“Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” and Unemployment Insurance
I’ve heard from a number of constituents who are self-employed or work as independent contractors and have lost their income but are not eligible for unemployment insurance (UI). The recent federal aid package created a new program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for workers who are unemployed but not eligible for UI. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is working with the U.S. Department of Labor to get the system up and running, but in the meantime, a step-by-step guide to help self-employed and contract workers register for the UI system (a necessary first step) is available here.
In the meantime, those whose employment status does make them eligible for UI may apply for it here. Note that DEED is receiving record numbers of applications. In order to smooth out the process, those applying for the first time are asked to do so on certain days based on the last digit of their social security number. This chart lays out the process.
Support for Small Businesses
I’ve also heard from many constituents whose small businesses are struggling during this time. Several state and federal programs have been created to help. Different programs make sense for different businesses, so DEED has prepared a guide to help businesses determine which programs might work for them. The guide, which lists all available or soon-to-be-available programs, can be found here.
Combating Discrimination Against Asian Americans
As if the pandemic itself were not awful enough, it has been accompanied by increasing discrimination against Minnesotans with family roots in Asia. In response, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights has established a new resource to help protect civil rights during the pandemic. Minnesotans who experience or witness discrimination can now report it by calling (833) 454-0148 or filling out an online form, linked here.
Other Helpful COVID Resources
Last week, Governor Walz launched a new COVID-19 dashboard that tracks the spread of the virus and provides the latest data on available ventilators, ICU beds, personal protective equipment (PPE), and testing. The dashboard, which will be updated daily, can be found here.
In addition, our terrific Minnesota House DFL staff has also compiled a comprehensive list of state resources related to the pandemic. You can view that list here.
Governor Walz: Daily Briefings and State of the State Address
I’m grateful to Governor Walz for his clear, thoughtful leadership throughout this crisis. Like many people, I’ve come to look forward to his daily 2:00pm briefings (often broadcast on MPR – check them out). On Sunday, he delivered the annual State of the State address. This speech is usually given at the Capitol with legislators in attendance, but this year’s was delivered from the Governor’s Residence. During the address, he provided an update on COVID-19 and the path forward. You can watch the video here. And for good measure, the text of the speech is available here.
Keep Local Restaurants in Business
Finally, our family like many has been eating takeout occasionally as a way to support our local restaurants. Visit St. Paul has put together a helpful list of restaurants that are open for takeout or delivery now; it’s linked here.
Thank you for the honor of serving you, especially now. Please keep in touch.
State Representative, District 64B
439 State Office Building
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