Working closely with Governor Walz and state health officials, legislators are doing all we can to protect Minnesotans’ health and economic wellbeing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the Minnesota House enacted a bipartisan, comprehensive package of legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate will consider the proposal this afternoon. You can read the legislation here. Below is a summary of the provisions included in the bill:
AGRICULTURE & FOOD
- Modifies the Rural Finance Authority’s disaster loan recovery program to allow applications related to any highly contagious animal disease or an infectious human disease such as COVID-19, for which the Governor has declared a peacetime emergency.
- Temporary waiver of commercial pesticide applicator requirements.
- Flexibility to modify deadlines, licensing registrations, continuing education requirements, business filing deadlines, and other requirements for regulated entities – like insurance agents and real estate brokers – if meeting those requirements would be more difficult during a declared emergency.
- Through Peacetime Emergency Child Care Grants, nearly $30 million will be available in one time grants to child care providers who agree to remain open throughout the peacetime public health emergency, prioritize spaces in their program for the children of essential workers, and use health and safety practices that prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a child care environment.
HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
- Walz’s Food Security Supplemental Budget, which appropriates $9 million from the to address food security related to COVID-19. The measure supports regional food banks, allows food shelves to purchase food, diapers, toilet paper, and other necessary supplies, and supports a network of transportation organizations to assist in the distribution of food and supplies.
- Walz’s Homelessness Supplemental Budget, which includes $5.53 billion in housing supports and $26.5 million for Emergency Services Grants, which includes shelter space, motel vouchers, and support staff.
- Modifications to the 2019 Opioid Response Bill.
- Gives the Office of Higher Education (OHE) the ability to modify or waive requirements that apply to SELF loan programs, work study programs, the state grant program, and other OHE aid and scholarships.
- Aligns state and federal work study guidelines to help students receive payments, even during the COVID-19 emergency.
- Holds state grant recipients harmless to ensure best outcomes for students.
- Provides flexibility to hold child care grant recipients harmless if a recipient fails to enroll or reduces enrollment because of COVID-19.
- A Loan Guarantee Program loans from private banks to small employers (up to 250 employees). This includes bars and restaurants and will allow them to keep paying their workers, even when they shut down. $10 million from this program will leverage $25 million to $30 million in private loans to 100-200 small businesses.
- Small Business Emergency Loans, a program launched after a Governor Walz executive order last week, which provides 0% interest, forgivable loans to small businesses that are impacted by orders to shut down.
- Temporary relaxation of restrictions on Minnesota Investment Fund loans, allowing cities to make loans to restaurants, bars, lodging and retailers.
- Codifying into law Governor Walz’s executive order which enabled workers to receive immediate Unemployment Insurance benefits without affecting the assessment paid by businesses.
- Giving the Dept. of Corrections’ medical director authority make health care decisions for certain inmates lacking decision-making capacity and who are placed in an outside facility on conditional medical release, if there is not a documented health care agent already assigned.
- A provision allowing the DOC ability to place an inmate with 90 days or less to serve in their prison sentence in a county jail for the remainder of their term.
- Temporary delay of the fingerprint requirement for any background check required for essential workers during a peacetime emergency. The state’s LiveScan fingerprinting service is currently shut down due to COVID-19.
- A COVID-19 Emergency Fund of $200 million to be made available to state agencies to assist with the response to the outbreak. Potential expenditures would include increased staffing costs at prison facilities or costs associated with activities by the Minnesota National Guard.
- $11 million in grants for Minnesota’s 11 tribal nations to help the tribal nations mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19
- Waivers for workforce and equal pay certificate requirements for emergency purchasing.
- Pushes back the deadline for petitioners with property tax appeals from April 30th to May 30th of 2020.
- With the federal deadline on the horizon, the legislation modifies the minimum standards to obtain a REAL ID including documents to be permitted such as a high school transcript, debit card statement, cell phone bill and more. It also extends the timeline from 90 days to one year for them to be accepted.
- $2.4 million to pay for a temporary increase in license staff to reach a 45 day turnaround time.
- A provision allowing individuals with driver’s licenses, permits, or disability parking permits that are set to expire at least two months in which to renew them following the end of our peacetime emergency.
- $6.2 million for the Minnesota Dept. of Veterans Affairs Soldier Assistance program, which will provide financial assistance to any veterans or surviving spouse of a veteran needing assistance as a result of the COVID-19 disaster.
Stay at Home
Yesterday, Governor Walz took a bold, but necessary step in issuing a “Stay at Home” order for a two-week period beginning this Friday. Minnesotans are asked to not leave their homes except for essential travel, like trips to get food, medical appointments, or outdoor activities like fitness or walking a pet. While data shows that Minnesotans have been largely practicing physical distancing guidelines, this step is necessary to ensure our health care system has the capacity to treat Minnesotans who may become afflicted, especially with a limited amount of ICU units and ventilators. Read the executive order here, and a list of Frequently Asked Questions is available here.
Minnesotans may leave their residences only to perform any of the following activities, and while doing so, they should practice social distancing:
- Health and safety activities, such as obtaining emergency services or medical supplies
- Outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, running, biking, hunting, or fishing
- Necessary Supplies and Services, such as getting groceries, gasoline, or carry-out
- Essential and interstate travel, such as returning to a home from outside this state
- Care of others, such as caring for a family member, friend, or pet in another household
- Displacement, such as moving between emergency shelters if you are without a home
- Relocation to ensure safety, such as relocating to a different location if your home has been unsafe due to domestic violence, sanitation, or essential operations reasons
- Tribal activities and lands, such as activities by members within the boundaries of their tribal reservation
The Minnesota Department of Health remains the best resource for accurate, up-to-date information regarding this pandemic. Please visit their website for informative resources, and they also have versions in Hmong, Spanish, and Somali. You can also call their hotline, staffed by public health professionals from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily, at 651-201-3920.
Minnesotans must all continue to do our part. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, cover your cough with your sleeve, and stay home when you’re sick. Additionally, follow social distancing guidelines by staying 6 feet apart from others and avoid gathering with large groups.
Please contact me if you have questions or if I can be of assistance in any way. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 651-296-4262. Please take care of yourself and your family.
Rep. Fue Lee