The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting daily life in our state in ways which would have been unthinkable just a matter of days ago. Public health officials are working around the clock to respond, and state lawmakers and Governor Walz are working closely together to slow the spread of the illness and ensure Minnesotans who may become afflicted are able to receive the care they need. Minnesotans are also experiencing some economic uncertainty as a result of the crisis and we’re working to address these challenges, too.
Timeline of State Government Response
-On Friday, March 6, public health officials confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Minnesota.
-On Monday, March 9, the Legislature unanimously approved a $21 million appropriation for Minnesota’s public health response contingency account, and Governor Walz signed the bill into law Tuesday, March 10.
-On Wednesday, March 11, the Minnesota House announced additional COVID-19 preparedness legislation, including no/low-interest loans to providers, clinics, facilities, health systems; expanding eligibility for Unemployment Insurance and paid leave; compensating hourly school workers for COVID-related closures; banning price gouging of food and other household necessities; and reducing financial barriers for Minnesotans who need testing and treatment.
-On Friday, March 13, Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-01 declaring a peacetime emergency in Minnesota and unveiled legislative proposals to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic (largely similar to proposals introduced by the House). These actions came in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Health announcing community mitigation strategies to limit the spread of the virus.
-On Sunday, March 15, Governor Walz signed Executive Order 20-02, authorizing the temporary closure of Minnesota K-12 public schools to students in order for school administrators and teachers to make long-term plans for the continuity of education and essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools will be closed to students from Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, March 27 to accommodate this planning between school staff, teachers, and administrators with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Executive Order 20-02 requires schools to provide care for elementary-age children of health care professionals, first responders, and other emergency workers during previously planned school days to ensure Minnesota’s first line of defense against COVID-19 can stay on the job. It also makes provisions for the continuity of mental health services and requires schools to continue providing meals to students in need.
-On Monday, March 16, the four legislative leaders from both political parties and chambers announced major changes to public access and legislative operations at the State Capitol to protect Minnesotans’ health. Please be assured, legislators are continuing to work around the clock to respond to this crisis in a variety of ways, but we’re doing so in ways that ensure we are in compliance with public health guidelines.
-Later on Monday, Governor Tim Walz today signed Executive Order 20-04 to order the temporary closure of Minnesota restaurants and bars to dine-in customers. He also ordered the temporary closure of other places of public accommodation and amusement, including theaters, museums, fitness centers, and community clubs. In an effort to support the many Minnesotans affected by these closures, the Governor signed Executive Order 20-05 to strengthen Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and allow payment of unemployment benefits immediately.
-Early morning Tuesday, March 17, lawmakers approved a measure delivering $200 million in investments for a health care response fund and Minnesota’s public health response contingency account. The funding for a loan and long-term grant program is designed to respond to the needs of health care and long-term care facilities. Governor Walz has signed this into law. You can read more about the new law, and how we’re adapting at the Legislature, here.
Resources are available in this uncertain time. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has resources for displaced workers as well as information for employers on their website. To apply for unemployment insurance benefits, visit uimn.org. Resources with information about how to access help regarding food and housing are also available.
The Minnesota Department of Education has set up a hotline at 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504 if you have questions regarding child care or school. Their website also has a COVID-19 section. You can also call Child Care Aware of MN at 1-888- 291-9811 or go to www.parentaware.org to search on-line for child care options. Childcare providers with questions should call 1-888-234-1268 or see this information from the Department of Human Services.
The Minnesota Department of Health’s website has a great deal of information, and a hotline staffed by public health officials is also available if you have questions at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903.
Visitors to the Capitol
The COVID-19 situation has certainly changed operations at the State Capitol, where gatherings are now limited in order to meet social distancing guidelines. Prior to this, I’ve had many rewarding meetings with constituents driving down to advocate for issues important to them.
Folks who work in our tourism and hospitality industries
Steelworkers in our wood fiber products industry
The Legislature is now on call to potentially consider new steps to address COVID-19 or assist Minnesotans who may be impacted. We’re continuing to work on measures to prohibit price gouging, deliver assistance for child care providers, ensure hourly educators and other school district workers receive compensation, and more.
This rapidly-evolving situation has changed our focus at the Legislature, but this crisis is impacting nearly every other issue we work on including education, child care, support for nursing homes, resources for first responders, and our ability to ensure Minnesotans can get the health care they need. Our proactive decisions today will impact the results we experience tomorrow and in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Please contact my office if you are having trouble finding answers to your questions or receiving the help you need. My email is email@example.com and you can reach me by phone at 651-296-0170. I will respond to your messages as soon as possible.
I will provide new information as it becomes available. It’s an honor to represent you.