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Capitol Newsletter from Rep. John Poston: Update on COVID-19 Response

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Dear Neighbors,

Changes have been made to the legislature’s daily operations as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite these changes, I want you to know that I will continue working for our community and urge you to keep contacting me with questions or concerns.

The House will formally remain in session as the state addresses the pressing public health issue surrounding COVID-19, with meetings and floor sessions taking place on an on-call basis until April 14. We have established alternate means of working that will allow the House to respond to the needs of Minnesotans, while also fully complying with Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) guidelines including social distancing, limiting large gatherings, telework, and increased cleaning measures necessitated by COVID-19.

The Minnesota Department of Health has hotlines available to assist Minnesotans, including a public line (651) 201-3920 and a line for questions specifically related to schools and/or childcare (651) 297-1304. Several online resources also are available to help individuals stay up to date:

Emergency Health Care Contingency Funds Approved

Early Tuesday morning, the legislature unanimously approved in the House and Senate, $200 million in additional funding to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding adds to the $21 million passed last week to assist the Department of Health and local health agencies, making resources available to hospitals, providers, ambulance services, long-term care facilities, and other entities who will be involved in the response to this outbreak.

There are taxpayer protections in the bill including legislative oversight, consequences for unauthorized use of funds, and returning money that goes unspent back to the general fund.

Legislators will continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak as it unfolds, and take additional measures if necessary to maximize our state's ability to respond and care for those who are ill, at-risk, or dealing with the consequences of the widespread school and business closures. Minnesota has a proud tradition of coming together during difficult times, during floods, natural disasters, and other challenging events. This will be no different.

Business and School Closures

On Sunday, Governor Walz announced that all Minnesota schools would close by today, Wednesday, March 18th. Monday, he announced the mandatory closure of restaurants, bars, and other public places where crowds congregate. 

Schools will be closed from Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, March 27 to accommodate planning between school staff, teachers, and administrators with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Please visit your local school district’s website for more information about how schools in your area are handling this.

The Minnesota Department of Health has a hotline available related to schools and/or childcare. Call (651) 297-1304 for more information. 

Business closures will cause significant hardship for workers and business owners. To help alleviate some of the financial hardship incurred, the governor issued an executive order to ensure workers affected by COVID-19 have full access to unemployment benefits.

According to the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program, the executive order makes applicants eligible for unemployment insurance benefits if:

  • A healthcare professional or health authority recommended or ordered them to avoid contact with others.
  • They have been ordered not to come to their workplace due to an outbreak of a communicable disease.
  • They have received notification from a school district, daycare, or other childcare provider that either classes are canceled or the applicant’s ordinary childcare is unavailable, provided that the applicant made reasonable effort to obtain other childcare and requested time off or other accommodation from the employer and no reasonable accommodation was available.

If your employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, I urge you to apply for unemployment benefits online.

Visit the Unemployment Insurance Program website at to learn more.

Staying in Touch

Our communities are strong, and we will get through this together. Make sure to listen to the advice of health experts, and please remain smart, safe and be good to each other.