Weekly Update – April 24

Dear Neighbors,

The legislature just entered the last 4 weeks of the legislative session, a time that would be busy, passing bills to be sent to conference committee and working towards agreements. COVID-19 has changed the way the legislature is currently operating, but I remain committed to addressing the many issues that have arisen within the past month. We will continue to work as quickly as possible to address issues that have arisen due to COVID. 

Below are just some of the updates from the legislature this week. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need assistance finding the resources that will help you.

 

Minnesota soon could have highest COVID-19 testing capacity in nation

Since the COVID-19 emergency began, Governor Walz and public health experts have said a plan to increase and expand testing would be a critical piece of reopening parts of society. This week, state leaders announced a partnership between two entities that have been developing tests – Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota – that will provide testing capacity to health systems across the state.

The coordination among health plans will help ensure every person in the state with symptoms of COVID-19 receives a test. The goal is to have the structure fully established in the next three to four weeks, at which point the state would have capacity to provide 20,000 molecular tests and 15,000 serology (antibody) tests per day.

The plan is partly funded by $36 million from the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund that the Legislature approved in late March. In partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health, the Mayo Clinic and the U of M will create a central lab to accommodate the expanded testing and a virtual command center in coordination with the health systems to monitor daily testing needs and coordinate rapid responses to outbreaks.

Governor Walz announced this new capacity should allow Minnesota to be testing at a rate higher than the rest of the country and perhaps the world. However, he warned it is not a guarantee that everything will reopen quickly. It gives the state more power to identify hotspots and provide rapid response when outbreaks occur, but social distancing is still critically important until a vaccine or other therapeutics can be secured.

State leaders said every Minnesotan who needs a test will receive one, regardless of health insurance status or finances. The Department of Health is working on a website that will allow Minnesotans to identify where tests are available on any given day. In the meantime, health leaders recommend that those experiencing systems still call their provider before leaving their homes so proper instructions can be provided.

Executive order allows more businesses to reopen

Governor Walz signed a new executive order on Thursday to begin reopening businesses that are focused on non-customer-facing businesses. This new order will mainly affect manufacturing, industrial, and office settings. A list of conditions and further information about the order is available here.

Under the order, businesses will need to create a plan that demonstrates employee hygiene processes and cleaning and disinfecting practices. Businesses will still be encouraged to allow those employees who can work from home to do so, and sick employees will still be required to stay at home.

Executive Order 20-40 makes no changes to the definitions of Critical Workers/Sectors from Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-33. Critical Workers/Sectors can be open as they were before this order. This order allows non-Critical Sector Workers in industrial and office settings to go back to work, with certain conditions.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry has introduced a template for businesses to use in creating plans that adhere to health guidelines that would allow them to re-open.

The template for businesses is available online here: www.dli.mn.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/COVID_19_business_plan_template.pdf

More updates for workers and businesses are available at: www.dli.mn.gov/updates.

Funding for COVID-19 impacted businesses moving through MN Senate

The Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy heard a proposal this week that would provide additional assistance to COVID-19-impacted businesses. The proposal appropriates an additional $20 million to the state-run Minnesota Emergency Loan Program and expands eligibility. The loan program is designed for those impacted by Executive Orders 20-04, 20-08, and 20-09.

The bill also provides $10 million for a new grant program that will be awarded through the Minnesota Initiative Foundation in Greater Minnesota and the Otto Bremer Trust in the metropolitan area. There are two components to the $10 million grants that may be made available. One component focuses on businesses located in Minnesota who employ 10 or fewer workers and can show financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. The other program would reserve a portion of the $10 million for microbusinesses – which are defined as having four or fewer employees – that are located in Minnesota, can show financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, and have a combination of assets and annual sales of less than $250,000.

The funding contained in this proposal is entirely separate from the federal money appropriated for federal business programs by the U.S. Senate this week (SF 4481)

Weekly Update – April 17

Dear Neighbors,

We had another busy week at the legislature as the Senate begins to meet for floor session and virtual committee meetings. After more than a year of hard work and negotiation, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act this week to create an emergency insulin access program and ongoing support programs. I am proud to have voted for this overdue legislation, everyone should have access to the medication they need. 

Governor Tim Walz today issued Executive Order 20-38, which expands allowable outdoor recreational activities. Gov. Walz’s order includes golfing, boating, fishing, hunting, and hiking, as long as they follow new outdoor recreation guidelines. These guidelines include maintaining 6-foot social distancing, avoiding crowded areas, and staying close to home. I have heard from many people regarding outdoor recreation and know I appreciate hearing from you. 

I know these times are difficult, but we will endure this period of uncertainty together, and as your State Senator, I will be working with my colleagues to ensure Minnesota families are taken care of.

 

Continuing the stay-at-home order

Continuing the stay-at-home order was not a decision taken lightly by Governor Walz. The decision is backed up by a significant amount of data showing that the order has made a tremendous difference in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. This mitigation has reduced face-to-face contact by 80% and is saving lives as a result.

These mitigation efforts, like social distancing and staying home, buy our health care system and caregivers time to continue their life-saving work. While the governor’s decision to keep schools, restaurants, bars, and other public gathering spaces closed has been difficult for families and businesses, these measures are proving to be effective in Minnesota, and the continuation will save lives. Minnesota has the lowest rate of cases per capita in the country. That means we are doing better than every other state in controlling the spread of this virus. It’s working because we are listening to public health professionals and doing our part as average citizens and as legislators in following their recommendation.

Minnesota must balance the data from science and health experts in keeping our citizens healthy with making sure businesses are protected and come out of this as strong as possible. We recognize that Minnesota’s small businesses are the foundation of our state’s economy, and we are committed to ensuring small business owners and employees across the state have the supports they need during this time of uncertainty and temporary closures. We know there is more to do to help our small businesses, but we must make sure that when they reopen, customers can be there without fear.

Minnesota receives first half of federal coronavirus relief fund

This week, Minnesota received $1,093,413,660 from the federal government’s Coronavirus Relief Fund appropriated through the CARES Act. These funds are being allocated as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak and will help offset the costs of dealing with the coronavirus.

This amount will be deposited into the general fund and will be used to counteract the financial hit caused by the pandemic. Further guidance from the US Department of Treasury will be available soon to inform the state of Minnesota on how best to use the funds.

This installment is expected to be the first half of a total of $2.187 billion allocated by the federal government. A portion of the latter half will be going to local units of government and is expected to arrive no later than April 24.

Senate passes takeout beer and wine sales at restaurants

Bar and restaurant owners asked that the sale of wine and beer be allowed with their curbside takeout orders while they are shut down due to the stay-at-home order. Expanding the sale of beer and wine would boost sales and preserve jobs in an industry that has been hit hard since the shutdown.

The Senate passed the takeout liquor bill and sent it to the House, where they are expected to take it up on April 17. The governor supports the bill and has indicated that he will sign it into law.

The bill allows establishments with on-sale liquor licenses to sell wine, beer, hard seltzer, and cider as off-sale in addition to their takeout food sales for the duration of the peacetime emergency. The alcoholic beverage must be sold in the original, unopened packaging and must be limited to 72 oz in total of beer, seltzer, and cider, and 750 milliliters for wine per order. Establishments must require proof of age, and municipalities may vote to prohibit these sales in their jurisdiction. Establishments that choose to partake in this must inform their insurance provider.

However, not everyone agrees with the bill. A number of microbreweries and micro-distilleries have been asking for temporary relaxing of various liquor laws they must adhere to, such as the limit on how much micro-distilleries can sell and allowing microbreweries to off-sale even if they don’t have a license until the stay-at-home order is lifted. Some of those businesses are seeing this as an affront or favoritism of some sorts as we are relaxing liquor standards for one industry but not others.

Sixteen other states have allowed restaurants and bars to serve liquor at curbside during their stay-at-home orders, including Wisconsin, Illinois, and California. (SF 4489)

Weekly Update – April 10

Dear Neighbors,

This week was another active week at the legislature, passing more relief measures in the Senate and House. Legislators passed a bill this week that will ensure health care workers, emergency responders, childcare workers, and other similarly situated critical employees have access to workers’ compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19 while working. The Minnesota Legislature will also next meet in session on April 14 to take up legislation to provide insulin for uninsured Minnesotans with diabetes or those who can’t afford it, in addition to other potential priorities specific to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Governor Walz announced an executive order this week that will extend the current stay-at-home order in place. Minnesota will now practice and implement further social distancing measures until May 4. Executive Order 20-33 also extends the closure of bars, restaurants, and other public accommodations to this date. 

I know these times are difficult, but we will endure this period of uncertainty together, and as your State Senator, I will be working with my colleagues to ensure Minnesota families are taken care of.

 

Workers’ compensation for front line workers

Legislators passed a bill this week that will ensure health care workers, emergency responders, childcare workers, and other similarly situated critical employees have access to workers’ compensation benefits if they contract COVID-19 while working. These workers are at increased risk because they have greater exposure to sick individuals, which is compounded by the concern that they lack the necessary personal protective equipment as a result of product shortages across the globe.

Our first responders and health care workers cannot stay at home during this crisis and are instead putting their lives, and the health and safety of their families, on the line every day to keep our communities safe and care for those who are suffering. I am grateful for the sacrifices they are making in order to keep Minnesota safe.

Governor Walz issues executive order to extend stay-at-home

As a recommendation from the CDC, Governor Walz announced an executive order this week that will extend the current stay-at-home order in place. Minnesota will now practice and implement further social distancing measures until May 4, as opposed to the former end date of April 10. Executive Order 20-33 also extends the closure of bars, restaurants, and other public accommodations to this date.

Minnesota has done well at social distancing and as bought some much needed time before we see the peak of cases here. By extending the stay-at-home order, we will buy ourselves additional time to prepare by manufacturing and purchasing resources such as ventilators (which increase the likelihood of survival of a patient in need by 10 times), building hospital infrastructure, and organizing hospitals for the pandemic’s peak. Should Minnesota continue this social distancing, it is estimated the peak would be pushed out to July.

For more information regarding the extension of the stay-at-home order, please visit Governor’s frequently updated website.

Hotline established to help victims of discrimination, hate crimes

Asian and Pacific Islander Minnesotans are experiencing an increase in discrimination and hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to this rise in hate, a hotline has been established to allow those who experience or witness bias and discrimination to report incidents to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The toll-free helpline is at 1-833-454-0148 and is staffed Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Minnesotans can call the discrimination hotline or complete and submit this online form Translation and interpretation services are available.

Weekly Update – April 3

Dear Neighbors,

This week the legislature began a remote COVID-19 Response Working Group to discuss a variety of issues Minnesota is facing due to COVID-19. Governor Walz also signed the COVID-19 relief package into law last week after the Senate and House met. This was an important step to in responding to the needs of workers, health care providers, and families who are facing unprecedented challenges during the pandemic. We are continuing our work to solve other unresolved issues to protect our citizens, including:

• Paying E12 hourly workers
• Housing and homelessness assistance
• MFIP funding for families at the lowest income levels
• Anti-discrimination measures
• Repayment mechanism to the 21st Century Mineral Fund

Below are some resources so you can stay up-to-date on the most accurate information related to COVID-19, as well as hotline numbers should you wish to speak to someone over the phone. As we continue to navigate these challenging times, I am hoping to be a resource in anyway I can. If you have any questions, please contact my office. 

 

Hourly school workers deserve a paycheck

The challenge of COVID-19 is being felt in every corner of our state and in the everyday lives of Minnesotans. One of the most significant disruptions has been in our schools, where classes can no longer meet in person. Students, teachers, support staff, and administrators have had to put a plan in place for continuing education for the next several weeks.

Our educators, administrators, and other school workers have met this challenge, and have implemented a statewide distance learning program continuing education for our students. They have also gone above and beyond in supporting our students and families. They have been out there delivering meals and providing support to students and their families by checking in, reaching out, and helping in a thousand different ways. Their support has been unflinching in this crisis.

Though these educators and support staff have stepped up, Senate Republicans have ignored the pleas of thousands of hourly school workers who no longer have the guarantee of a paycheck. Though the Legislature passed a bipartisan $331 million COVID-19 relief package last week, it did not include a single provision related to education in the bill. This is unacceptable and I will continue to advocate for hourly school workers.

Now that we are adjourned, it is likely that the earliest we will be able to address this issue is when we return on April 14. Thousands of Minnesotans are facing anxiety, uncertainty, and the fear of not having the paychecks they need to pay their rent or mortgage or to cover the costs of food or medicine. Only through legislation can we guarantee that the pay expected for these hourly workers will get to them.

Legislators advocate for first responders’ access to workers comp

I had the pleasure to sign onto a letter sent a letter to Governor Walz asking him to use his executive authority to ensure first responders have access to workers compensation benefits in the event they contract COVID-19. In the letter, legislators argue that first responders are putting themselves at risk in order to help citizens stay safe and get access to health care they need. As a result, it is important that the state ensure first responders and others have access to the benefits they need. In addition to asking for an executive order, legislators are also working on a proposal to ensure these workers are covered through legislation.

We are committed to fighting for our state’s workers, including first responders. We will continue to push for the inclusion of first responders’ access to workers comp at the Legislature.

Resources:

Department of Health:

COVID Updates here.

COVID Hotlines: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Health questions:
651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903
School and childcare questions:
651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504

Employment and Economic Development:

Worker and Business Resources – if you are facing unemployment or a reduction in your hours, follow the “Information for Workers” link to learn how to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.

K-12 Education and Childcare:

Hotline for School and Childcare questions:

Call 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504 (7am-7pm daily)

Hotline for Childcare Providers with questions: 1-888-234-1268

Updates about K-12 education from the Minnesota Department of Education can be found online here

Information on childcare for families and providers can be found online here

Weekly Update – March 27

Dear Neighbors,

This week the legislature began a remote COVID-19 Response Working Group to discuss a variety of issues Minnesota is facing due to COVID-19. Governor Walz also signed the COVID-19 relief package into law last week after the Senate and House met. This was an important step to in responding to the needs of workers, health care providers, and families who are facing unprecedented challenges during the pandemic. We are continuing our work to solve other unresolved issues to protect our citizens, including:

• Paying E12 hourly workers
• Housing and homelessness assistance
• MFIP funding for families at the lowest income levels
• Anti-discrimination measures
• Repayment mechanism to the 21st Century Mineral Fund

Below are some resources so you can stay up-to-date on the most accurate information related to COVID-19, as well as hotline numbers should you wish to speak to someone over the phone. As we continue to navigate these challenging times, I am hoping to be a resource in anyway I can. If you have any questions, please contact my office. 

 

Hourly school workers deserve a paycheck

The challenge of COVID-19 is being felt in every corner of our state and in the everyday lives of Minnesotans. One of the most significant disruptions has been in our schools, where classes can no longer meet in person. Students, teachers, support staff, and administrators have had to put a plan in place for continuing education for the next several weeks.

Our educators, administrators, and other school workers have met this challenge, and have implemented a statewide distance learning program continuing education for our students. They have also gone above and beyond in supporting our students and families. They have been out there delivering meals and providing support to students and their families by checking in, reaching out, and helping in a thousand different ways. Their support has been unflinching in this crisis.

Though these educators and support staff have stepped up, Senate Republicans have ignored the pleas of thousands of hourly school workers who no longer have the guarantee of a paycheck. Though the Legislature passed a bipartisan $331 million COVID-19 relief package last week, it did not include a single provision related to education in the bill. This is unacceptable and I will continue to advocate for hourly school workers.

Now that we are adjourned, it is likely that the earliest we will be able to address this issue is when we return on April 14. Thousands of Minnesotans are facing anxiety, uncertainty, and the fear of not having the paychecks they need to pay their rent or mortgage or to cover the costs of food or medicine. Only through legislation can we guarantee that the pay expected for these hourly workers will get to them.

Legislators advocate for first responders’ access to workers comp

I had the pleasure to sign onto a letter sent a letter to Governor Walz asking him to use his executive authority to ensure first responders have access to workers compensation benefits in the event they contract COVID-19. In the letter, legislators argue that first responders are putting themselves at risk in order to help citizens stay safe and get access to health care they need. As a result, it is important that the state ensure first responders and others have access to the benefits they need. In addition to asking for an executive order, legislators are also working on a proposal to ensure these workers are covered through legislation.

We are committed to fighting for our state’s workers, including first responders. We will continue to push for the inclusion of first responders’ access to workers comp at the Legislature.

Resources:

Department of Health:

COVID Updates here.

COVID Hotlines: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Health questions:
651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903
School and childcare questions:
651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504

Employment and Economic Development:

Worker and Business Resources – if you are facing unemployment or a reduction in your hours, follow the “Information for Workers” link to learn how to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.

K-12 Education and Childcare:

Hotline for School and Childcare questions:

Call 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504 (7am-7pm daily)

Hotline for Childcare Providers with questions: 1-888-234-1268

Updates about K-12 education from the Minnesota Department of Education can be found online here

Information on childcare for families and providers can be found online here