Hello Friends and Neighbors,
Well, it's been quite a week for us all. First, I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and that you are finding ways to stay in touch with neighbors and friends who may need help or just a friendly phone call during our "stay at home" requirement. I am amazed at the outpouring of support and creativity that our communities are showing. And, I want you to know that the legislature has been working around the clock in coordination with the Governor's office and state agencies to respond to this health emergency - without partisan politics. We can all be proud to be Minnesotans.
We will get through this together!
There's not enough space to thank all of the employers, non-profits, workers, nurses, volunteers, and local government employees who are stepping up. But here's a quick shout-out to say THANKS FOR ALL YOU ARE DOING. Click here.
Now, here's the news this week surrounding the State's handling of COVID-19 and legislative action from yesterday:
GOVERNOR ISSUES STAY AT HOME ORDER
On Wednesday, Governor Walz issued a Stay at Home order, which can be found here: mnhouse.gop/EO_ShelterInPlace
The governor listed the following reasons for the order, which include building out our hospital capacity; increasing access to ventilators and other life saving equipment; increasing testing; addressing the shortages of PPE for our healthcare workers; planning for how to care for the vulnerable in the months ahead and allowing us to access new data and adapt our strategies accordingly.
Here is a link to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development that lists all “critical” businesses that would remain open: https://mn.gov/deed/assets/naics-critical-list_tcm1045-424829.pdf
LEGISLATURE APPROVES ANOTHER COVID-19 FUNDING PACKAGE
On Thursday, the Minnesota House approved a legislative package that continues our state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal allocates resources to the Department of Human Services, the newly established COVID-19 Minnesota Fund, Department of Public Safety, and the Department of Veterans affairs in order to assist with some of the challenges brought forward by the coronavirus.
Among the notable highlights of the comprehensive package:
The establishment of a loan guarantee program for small businesses with up to 250 full time employee equivalents. Loans made under this program could be up to a maximum amount of $200,000. These loans would be allowed to be used for business purposes exclusively in Minnesota, including the purchase, maintenance, or repair of machinery or equipment; expenses related to moving into or within Minnesota; and working capital when it is secured by fixed assets when possible.
Allowing a veteran or a veteran’s surviving spouse to use emergency financial assistance, hospitalization assistance or medical care or treatment for veterans impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure allows veterans to access this appropriation whether or not they have previously received financial assistance through the State Soldier’s Assistance Fund program. The funding would be available through the current FY 2020-21 biennium.
For farmers: the expansion of the eligible uses for the RFA Disaster Recovery Loan Program and the Highly Pathogenic Animal Disease Emergency accounts to include COVID-19. This will allow farmers facing tough circumstances due to COVID-19 to access already appropriated funds designed to help in times of crisis on the farm.
Increased housing supports for low-income Minnesotans and adding homeless shelter beds.
Childcare assistance: grants to both center-based and in-home childcare so that they can keep operating and serving our communities during this crisis.
The expiration date deadline has been extended for Minnesota driver licenses, Minnesota State ID cards, and disability parking certificates and permits for an extended period while the peacetime emergency declared by the governor remains in place. The extension would run until the last day of the second consecutive month following when the peacetime emergency has been terminated. There is no additional fee for the extension period.
For students: flexibility in meeting SELF grant, State grant, and work-study requirements, so they will be "held harmless" for any reduced credits due to the corona virus.
Funding support for Food Shelves and allowing them to purchase diapers and toilet paper.
Over the past week, the House and Senate have been working together to negotiate a variety of provisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we successfully advocated for multiple sunsets, reporting requirements, and other accountability measures. These financial controls are very important as the cost of addressing this pandemic will have serious impacts to our state's budget.
We need to be strategic in how we move forward so our business and household economies can be strong, not only for the immediate weeks and months, but for the long haul. And, solutions can come from the private sector, not all from government. We need to continue to listen to you, the people directly impacted by this pandemic, so we can respond accordingly and with a balance between health and safety and our long term financial stability.
I have talked with many, many of you these past two weeks about your concerns and questions related to COVID-19. Although much has been accomplished in a short time, I know we still have open issues. We will continue to work through them and adjust our plans as the situation changes. Specifically, we are working with the federal government on activating "disaster unemployment insurance" through FEMA which would allow independent contractors (like hair stylists) and sole proprietors to apply for unemployment.
I have heard from many of you who want to return to work and have concerns about the financial impact on your pocketbook as well as the State's long term budget. I hear your concerns and understand.
I've often been reminded of words of wisdom from my dad. In stressful and uncertain times, he would tell me, "Do the best you can, with the information you have at the time. Leave the rest to God. This too shall pass."
I hope you all have a good weekend,