While the pandemic isn’t over, we’ve received some good news with low rates of hospital admissions, an uptick in vaccination counts, and over 30 percent of Minnesotans 65 and older now vaccinated. With President Biden’s announcement yesterday that the US is securing 600 million more vaccine doses, there are many reasons to be optimistic, but not at the cost of losing the ground we’ve gained. Following current public health guidelines is key.
In the wake of this good news, today Governor Walz loosened restrictions on businesses. Effective Saturday, February 13 at noon, this new Executive Order takes steps to further reopen Minnesota’s economy safely, including:
- Increasing the “not to exceed” capacity in restaurants to 250, while leaving the maximum capacity at 50 percent
- Increasing indoor entertainment “not to exceed” capacity to 250, while leaving the maximum capacity at 25 percent
- Increasing private events and celebrations “not to exceed” capacity to 50, while leaving the maximum capacity at 25
- Increasing gym and pool “not to exceed” capacity to 250, while leaving maximum capacity at 25 percent, and reducing distancing requirement to 6 feet.
- Allowing restaurants to stay open until 11 p.m.
I have received some feedback from neighbors on the vaccine lottery as well as questions on the process as a whole. Health care workers and long-term care residents are continuing to receive the vaccine through their workplace, care facility, or local public health department. Minnesotans age 65 or older and educators are also now receiving the vaccine. Those 65 or older who have yet to receive their first dose can find vaccine providers in their area and more information here. If you pre-registered for the COVID-19 Community Vaccination Program, you’ll be notified if you’re chosen through the random selection process. Educators, school staff, and child care workers will receive vaccine information from their employers.
Staying Warm This Winter
This weekend brings some of the coldest days yet for this winter, and Minnesotans struggling to pay their heating bills should know about our state’s Energy Assistance Program as well as the Cold Weather Rule. The Energy Assistance Program helped over 118,00 households pay heating bills last year, and you’re still able to apply - though applications are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The program serves households that earn less than $54,357 for a household of four or $28,266 for a household of one. If you’re eligible, you can apply for assistance with your service provider. Call 800-657-3710 or visit the Commerce Department’s Energy Assistance Program webpage.
Minnesota’s Cold Weather Rule (CWR) helps protect and reconnect your heat from October 15 through April 15. All electric and natural gas companies must offer CWR protection, with different types of payment plans available depending on your household income and which electric or natural gas company you have. You can find more information on how to take advantage of the CWR here.
Commerce Hearing on Cannabis
Next week, as vice chair of the House Commerce Committee, I’ll be hearing legislation on legalizing cannabis for adult-use. At the start of last session, House DFLers had just finished a statewide “Be Heard on Cannabis” listening session tour in communities across the state, including Eden Prairie. At that event I heard thoughtful, pragmatic responses from neighbors of varying perspectives, and now it’s time to continue that conversation in the legislative process.
Please share your thoughts on this important issue by completing a three question survey here before noon on 2/17. We will also share the link on my Facebook page and you can help by encouraging family and friends in Eden Prairie to participate in the legislative process by providing their opinions as well.
The hearing will be the first-ever for a bill on the legalization of cannabis in Minnesota, and I promise to approach the issue with an open mind. It’s crucial that we address how Minnesota’s current laws have contributed to racial disparities in our criminal justice system by disproportionately impacting communities of color, despite comparable usage rates among white Minnesotans. We’ll be hearing the bill on Wednesday, February 17, at 3pm. You can visit the committee homepage that day to watch it live.
The House Public Information website remains a great resource for everything going on at the Minnesota House, whether it’s a hearing on legislation to add new safeguards for renters, a proposal of $745 million in new state aid for our schools, or efforts to remove civil asset forfeiture laws.
You can also stay up to date by “liking” and following my Facebook page, and be sure to subscribe and share these legislative updates. If you have any questions or comments for me, the best way to touch base is through email (email@example.com) or phone (651/296-7449). I appreciate hearing from you.