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Capitol Newsletter from Rep. Paul Novotny: Update on COVID-19 Response

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear Neighbors,

The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping daily life for Minnesotans as we are about to enter our first week of school closures and restrictions on restaurants, bars, and other businesses.

Daily operations at the Minnesota House of Representatives have also been altered amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

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. Alternate means of working 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.

Though I will not be at the Capitol five days a week for the foreseeable future, I want residents to know that I am still working for them. To that end, I encourage folks to continue to reach out to me if they have any questions or concerns. Our communities are strong, and we will get through this difficult time.

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:

School Closures 

On Sunday, Governor Walz announced the temporary closure of all public schools in Minnesota beginning March 18th. 

For more information regarding how your school is handling the closures, visit school district websites:

Again, for questions specifically related to schools and/or childcare, call (651) 297-1304.

Governor Walz Executive Orders

On March 16, Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order, closing all restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms, and other similar spaces. Grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and others will remain open. Delivery and curbside pickup for restaurants will remain available.

This is a difficult decision but is aimed at “flattening the curve” of the outbreak in hopes of averting the situation we’ve seen in countries like Italy where health systems have been overwhelmed. 

The governor’s order will certainly cause significant economic hardship for businesses and employees.

If you or a loved one has lost their job or had their hours reduced as a result of these closings, please encourage them to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. You can find more information at

Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Governor Walz issued an additional executive order to ensure workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic 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.

The executive order also eliminates the one week waiting period to ensure applicants have access to unemployment benefits as quickly as possible and assures business owners that benefits paid as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will not increase their future unemployment tax rate.

If your employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the department urges you to apply for unemployment benefits online. Visit the Unemployment Insurance Program website at to learn more. 

Strengthening Hospitals

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. 

Staying in Touch

I will continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak as it unfolds, and expect the legislature to 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. 

Please continue to reach out to me if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4237 or via email at

Be well,