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House, Senate plan to act on more COVID-19 proposals Thursday

The House Chamber pictured March 16. Lawmakers may act on another package of measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic as early as Thursday. Photo by Paul Battaglia
The House Chamber pictured March 16. Lawmakers may act on another package of measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic as early as Thursday. Photo by Paul Battaglia

— UPDATED at 10:28 p.m.

The Legislature is expected to act Thursday afternoon on additional legislation to help the state combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are continuing to work closely with the Walz Administration on urgent COVID-19 matters to protect the health and well-being of Minnesotans. We will publicly release details on specific legislation on the House and Senate websites as soon as we can,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) said in a statement late Tuesday.

The House is scheduled to convene at noon Thursday; the Senate at 2 p.m. Arrangements will be made to ensure the House follows guidelines from the Department of Health to keep members, staff and the public safe.

“We know that Minnesotans are facing significant medical concerns and financial hardships, and the Minnesota House of Representatives is working hard with the goal of a legislative session on Thursday to pass legislation to safeguard their health and economic well-being,” Hortman said in a statement earlier in the day. 

Hortman said the proposed legislation aims to provide further relief than Gov. Tim Walz is able to deliver via executive order.  

For the last few days, House members have been meeting via informal working groups that mirror its current committee structure. 

Among items legislators have been working on are:

  • creation of a COVID-19 Minnesota Fund for expenditures to protect Minnesotans from the outbreak;
  • awarding grants to licensed family and center-based child care providers, who, in part, agree to care for the children of health care and other emergency workers;
  • one-time funding support for the Minnesota Food Shelf Program;
  • a one-time $500 emergency assistance payment to approximately 27,700 families in the Minnesota Family Investment Program;
  • a homeless and housing stability package to provide safe spaces for quarantine and isolation and to keep those under economic duress from experiencing homelessness during this emergency;
  • commerce licensing exemptions, such as extending registration or licensing renewal deadlines;
  • driver’s licenses expiration forgiveness;
  • letting an employee use available personal leave benefits provided by their employer for absences due to the specific reasons related to COVID-19;
  • entitling an employee to use up to eight weeks of unpaid leave due to the specific reasons related to COVID-19;
  • allowing payments of State Work Study funds to students during declared disasters or a Peacetime Declaration/State of Emergency; and
  • including diapers and toilet paper as items eligible for purchase under the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The full list is available here.

Hortman said the House is working to create opportunities for the public to engage in the process and asked people to continue reaching out to their representatives directly. A feedback form available on the House website.  

“We are working to implement a virtual committee hearing process that would be open to the public as soon as possible,” Hortman said. “DFL State Representatives alone have received input from and responded to thousands of constituents over the last week. We encourage members of the public to continue reaching out to their legislators.”? 

The House was last in session in the wee hours of March 17 when members passed a $200 million relief package to help health care providers battle the pandemic. The House and Senate then agreed to recess until April 14, with the understanding they would return as needed to take additional action. 


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