The final weekend of the 2020 legislative session is upon us. We must adjourn by Monday, but per the state constitution, Sunday is the last day we will be able to pass bills. Our efforts to address COVID-19 will not end with this adjournment. Earlier this week, House Speaker Melissa Hortman announced the formation of a Select Committee on Minnesota’s Pandemic Response and Rebuilding to explore the pandemic’s impacts and address any issues that may arise.
Here’s an update on news from the State Capitol.
Addressing COVID-19: Next Steps
Wednesday night, Governor Tim Walz announced the current “Stay at Home” order will expire on May 18 and he’s “turning the dials” to gradually allow more businesses to open. Starting Monday, retailers will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity and small gatherings of 10 or fewer will be allowed to occur. The administration is also working with restaurants, bars, salons, and gyms to develop a way for those businesses to safely open as soon as June 1.
Before opening, non-critical sector business and retail establishments must have a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in place to protect the health and safety of their workers, and businesses must follow CDC and OSHA guidance. More information about these requirements is available here. The governor has also issued an executive order protecting Minnesotans who are concerned about the safety of their work environment. It allows workers to raise concerns without fear of discrimination or retaliation and protects those who refuse to work under unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
The Walz administration will continue to keep an eye on indicators like the number of new cases, and it’s possible restrictions could be put back in place. Despite the governor’s new orders, we should all continue to take safety precautions like social distancing, wearing a mask, and staying home when sick. Additionally, people who may be vulnerable – like those with compromised immune systems – should continue to stay home. COVID-19 remains a public health threat to be taken seriously and we all have an important role to play in stopping the spread of this condition.
House DFL Jobs and Local Projects Plan
Tomorrow on the House Floor we will consider the Jobs and Local Projects Plan. The bill contains $2.524 billion in renovations, repairs, and replacement of public assets like higher education institutions, clean water infrastructure, correctional facilities, roads and bridges, parks and trails, municipal buildings and more.
The legislation invests in the things we all value in our communities, like clean water, affordable housing, safe transportation infrastructure, and preservation of our lands, history, and heritage. As the Vice Chair of the House Capital Investment Division, I’m proud of the work that went into developing this package, which includes investments in a number of projects important to communities of color and indigenous communities, which haven’t always been prioritized in bonding bills. Not only does this bill invest in critical infrastructure, it creates jobs that are sorely needed right now. During the pandemic, Minnesotans deserve a path toward economic recovery and the projects in this bill will help communities emerge from this crisis together.
Locally, the plan invests in the Upper Harbor music venue, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Minneapolis’s Emergency Operations Center and Fire Training Facility, North Commons Park, the D-Line Bus Rapid Transit, Mississippi River Trail Connection, and the Central City Storm Tunnel. The full list of the projects included is available here.
COVID-19 Economic Security Agenda
Minnesotans have experienced unthinkable economic hardship as a result of the pandemic, and those in our communities who were struggling prior to the emergence of COVID-19 have been impacted the worst. The House DFL’s Economic Security Agenda delivers much-needed relief to Minnesotans with solutions like:
- $100 million in assistance for Minnesota renters, homeowners, and landlords. In addition to support for rent and mortgages, qualified applicants can receive help paying utility bills and property taxes;
- 15% temporary pay increase for Minnesota’s personal care assistants (PCA), who are serving Minnesotans with disabilities, our seniors, and other vulnerable populations. In addition to the increase, PCAs can now be paid for 310 hours of services per month, up from 275;
- $15 million in a new Distance Learning Broadband Access Grant Program to provide students with the equipment necessary to access learning materials on the internet and reimburse school districts for costs to provide broadband access;
- $55 million to the Small Business Emergency Loan Program at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), including specific funds for our smallest businesses and minority-owned businesses.
You can read more about this initiative here.
State Worker Contracts
Earlier this week, the House voted to approve labor contracts for our state employees. These contracts were negotiated in good faith between labor and management, and have been in effect for several months.
Our state employees are dedicated to their jobs and during this pandemic many of them are on the front lines battling COVID-19. Nurses are providing care for vulnerable Minnesotans, corrections officers are keeping our prisons safe, and public health workers are in labs battling COVID-19 itself. They deserve fair compensation and the economic security that comes with it. I proudly supported the legislation to ratify these labor agreements.
Safe Access to Democracy