This afternoon, the Minnesota House and Senate passed important legislation focused on helping Minnesotans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, the bipartisan package of legislation includes loans for small businesses, Unemployment Insurance benefits for people who can’t work, funding for a state COVID-19 fund, support for food and housing security, grants for child care providers who care for the children of health care professionals and other emergency workers, and financial assistance for veterans. More information is available here.
Today’s vote will provide much-needed relief for Minnesotans who are struggling, but there are more issues that we’ll need to address in the coming days, weeks, and months. My colleagues and I are already looking ahead at options to address the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stay at Home Order
Yesterday, Governor Walz issued an executive order directing Minnesotans to stay at home and limit movements outside their homes. The order takes effect on Friday, March 27 at 11:59 p.m. and ends on Friday, April 10 at 5 p.m.
You will be able to leave your home for essential activities like buying groceries, seeking medical care, and going for a walk. However, you should keep a six-foot distance between yourself and others while doing so. Minnesotans shouldn’t go to work unless they work in certain sectors, including, but not limited to:
- Health care and public health
- Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders
- Emergency shelters, congregate living facilities, and drop-in centers
- Child care
- Food and agriculture
- News media
- Water and wastewater
- Critical manufacturing
The Governor also implemented a Distance Learning Period for Minnesota students, which will last from March 30 through May 4. He extended the temporary closure of restaurants, bars, and other gathering places as well. These venues will remain closed until May 1.
Governor Walz has issued a series of executive orders, some of which mirror our legislative efforts. The orders he’s signed recently ban price gouging, ensure critical services for some of Minnesota’s most vulnerable residents, suspend evictions, and authorize the Minnesota National Guard to assist in COVID-19 response efforts. A full list of the executive orders that Governor Walz has issued is available here.
Support for Small Businesses
Many small businesses are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) has launched an Economic Injury Disaster Loan program to help small businesses and nonprofits overcome the temporary loss of revenue. The federal agency is accepting applications for loans of up to $2 million. For more information, click here or call the SBA’s disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has established a Small Business Emergency Loan program to provide immediate assistance to small businesses. The program will offer interest-free loans of $2,500 to $35,000 that may qualify for partial forgiveness. Small businesses can apply here.
MNsure Special Enrollment Period
On Monday, MNsure launched a special enrollment period for qualified individuals who are currently without insurance. The special enrollment period began on March 23 and runs through Tuesday, April 21, giving uninsured Minnesotans 30 days to enroll in health coverage through MNsure.org. MNsure has a statewide network of expert assisters who provide free help to applicants. You can find an assister here. If you need additional help, you can call the MNsure Contact Center at 651-539-2099 or 855-366-7873 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Tax Filing Deadline Extended
The Minnesota Department of Revenue recently announced that the state income tax filing deadline has been extended. Minnesotans now have until Wednesday, July 15 to file their returns without any penalties or interest. The deadline for filing federal tax returns was pushed back to July 15 as well. More information is available here.
These are challenging and uncertain times, but we will get through them if we all do our part. Please take care of yourself and others and let me know if I can be of help in any way. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-9934.