I hope you and your family are doing well considering the tough situation we’re all in, and that you remain safe and in good health. This week is National Nurses Week, and yesterday was National Nurses Day, and I want to express my deep gratitude for their dedication and commitment to our health. Nurses make tremendous contributions to our health care and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, they deserve our recognition. They greet us with a smile and helpful advice during routine visits, and they care for us during the most challenging times some of us will face in our lives.
It’s also Teacher Appreciation Week and I want to share my thanks to Minnesota’s educators for all that they are doing during this time. They were forced to switch to a completely new model of distance learning practically overnight, and they are going above and beyond to make sure students can continue their studies remotely.
Hourly school workers are also critical to our students’ success, and many of them are in a financially uncertain situation due to the transition to distance learning. This week, we approved legislation guaranteeing their wages for the remainder of the school year. The dedicated folks who drive buses, prepare meals, and give students an extra hand with reading or math deserve economic security during this uncertain time.
Minnesota Legislative Report
In case you missed it, I recently appeared on WDSE’s Minnesota Legislative Report to discuss what we’re working on at the Legislature and how COVID-19 has changed our approach to lawmaking. You can watch the video here.
Occupation Tax Deadline Extended
My heart is broken that workers have been laid off as a result of idled operations at MinnTac, Keetac, Northshore, and HibTac. I want to remind folks that assistance with Unemployment Insurance is available. Additionally, both a $600 per week increase and a 13-week extension of benefits have been approved as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. While many families are doing OK for now as a result of these payments, I recognize the deep worry folks have the longer this situation goes on. If anything is certain during an uncertain situation, it’s that Iron Rangers are resilient, and we’ve been through struggles before. By collaborating on solutions to ensure economic security for everyone, we will get through this one, too.
One step which will help mining companies weather the storm – and hopefully help get back to normal sooner – is an extension of the filing deadline for the state’s mining occupation tax from May 1 to July 1. Companies pay this tax instead of the corporate franchise tax. While it’s at a lower rate than the corporate rate, it recognizes all taconite sales (which occur out of state and would therefore not be used to determine how much income is taxable under the corporate tax) are deemed to be Minnesota sales. This is one of several tax abatement strategies deployed by the Minnesota Department of Revenue to assist businesses during the pandemic, and you can learn more about them here.
More Steps to Reopen Our Economy
Work continues to take place to safely reopen businesses and gradually get our economy back on track. Recently, Governor Walz removed some restrictions on retailers, allowing them to serve curbside and offer delivery. This week, elective surgeries were allowed to resume, which indicates health care system capacity – one of the major barriers we’ve faced in dealing with this pandemic – has grown.
I recognize that many folks wish things could be back to normal immediately. While progress continues to be made, without solid plans in place to protect workers and the public, any progress we’ve made could be lost and infections of COVID-19 could spike. Also, while testing is rapidly increasing, a contact tracing and isolation strategy – our next phase in our public health response – still needs to be implemented. Governor Walz has been clear that an indefinite Stay at Home order isn’t sustainable and, as progress continues to be made, we will continue “turning the dials” to reopen more businesses and allow more types of gatherings. We all have to do our part too, and by continuing to avoid unnecessary trips and practicing social distancing, we can continue our progress in slowing the spread.
Heating Assistance Available
While summer is just around the corner, there are still some awfully cold nights and heating bills pose a challenge for many in our region. As a result of the struggles folks are already facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has made changes to the eligibility requirements and application deadlines for the state’s Energy Assistance Program’s (EAP). The new application deadline is July 1, and the annual crisis maximum has been increased to $1,200, up from $600.
The EAP can help households pay a past-due bill, even without a shut-off notice, get an emergency fuel delivery, and help repair or replace broken furnaces. For more information, visit the Department of Commerce online.
I can be of help in any way during these challenging times, don’t hesitate to reach out to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling my office at 651-296-0170. We will lead our way through this crisis together.