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

COVID-19 Update and Resources

Dear Neighbors,

Responding to the impact of the coronavirus strain COVID-19 this past week became more urgent. Hundreds, and often thousands, of people visit the Capitol and Minnesota Senate Building every day. We must do all we can to keep visitors, staff, legislators and the rest of our community safe and healthy. While many of us were unable to meet in in person, know that I am always available by phone and email. I hope to be a resource in any way I can. Below I included an update from the legislature with resources you may find helpful. 

 

New measures adopted at Legislature in response to COVID-19

Responding to the impact of the coronavirus strain COVID-19 this past week became more urgent at both the state level and at the Minnesota Legislature. Governor Walz has made several moves to promote social distancing to “flatten the curve” of the infection rate for the virus, including mandating that restaurants move to takeout- and delivery-only methods and bars be closed for the next two weeks.

Other social gathering spaces such as theaters, bowling alleys, and museums have also been closed. These decisions come as an effort to slow the spread of the infection, so the state’s health care infrastructure isn’t overwhelmed with too many cases at once. We remain committed to aiding those affected negatively by these closures and have helped pass economic support for workers tirelessly fighting this pandemic, as well as those experiencing economic hardships because of it.

The Legislature passed a bill this week to provide an additional $200 million for health care infrastructure and procedures during the response to COVID-19. The legislation was passed unanimously, showing our commitment to bipartisanship during this trying time for Minnesota.

Governor Walz has also signed executive orders in recent days, which will:

  • Protect residents and staff in Veterans Homes by restricting all visitors and non-essential personnel except for end of life care.
  • Exempt emergency relief efforts from certain regulations that restrict their ability to provide assistance, including limits on weight and hours of service. The Order allows for the efficient movement of essential supplies, including food, medical supplies, and household items.
  • Provide paid leave for all state employees who are unable to work because of COVID-19.

Things will also be looking different in how business is done at the Legislature for the next several weeks. The Legislature is following the guidelines of the Minnesota Department of Health surrounding social distancing: six feet of distance is maintained between people, in-person meetings are being extremely limited, staff are encouraged to telecommute whenever possible, and senators are in recess, only returning to pass emergency COVID response legislation or legislation agreed upon by all legislative caucuses before heading to the floor.

Staying informed is essential, and if we continue to follow these guidelines, we can flatten the curve and ensure Minnesota continues to operate in response to this pandemic effectively and efficiently. The most up-to-date information on COVID-19 from the MDH can be found here.

The MN Department of Health has set up a COVID-19 public hotline that is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The hotline number is 651-201-3920.

A MN Department of Public Safety hotline taking questions regarding community mitigation problems, including school and business impacts, can be found here open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily: 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903.

Other Resources:

Unemployment Benefits: If a business you work for has reduced your hours or terminated your employment in response to the pandemic or for any reason that is no fault of your own, it is likely that you qualify for the unemployment insurance benefits. The agency is encouraging applicants to utilize their website as they are receiving a high volume of calls.

The application to apply is available at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s website

Small Business Assistance: The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is recommending pandemic-impacted small businesses contact the Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 for the latest information on its Disaster Loan program. Small business guidance and loan resources can also be found on the SBA’s website

Starting soon businesses can apply for SBA low interest loans: We care deeply about your business and are actively working with state and federal partners on measures to assist businesses through this unprecedented time.

U.S. Small Business Administration loans available soon: One way Minnesota businesses may be able to get assistance is through low interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Governor Walz has requested an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration, clearing the way for businesses to apply for loans to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. If you have questions, please call the SBA hotline at 1-800-659-2955. We will share SBA loan application information as soon as it becomes available.