MN Government Updates 03.26

The House and Senate passed another COVID-19 response package to assist Minnesota coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and its related disruptions.

  • This legislation provides $331 million to help Minnesotans withstand the effects of this global pandemic. It establishes a dedicated COVID-19 Minnesota Fund that will be used by the Walz Administration to keep Minnesotans safe during this emergency. The package also includes funding for childcare providers, college students, small businesses, veterans, homeless shelters, and food shelves. The two previous COVID-19 bills passed by the legislature allocated a combined $221 million in funding for medical needs – bringing the total to $552 million this year to address the COVID-19 pandemic in Minnesota.

 

  • The COVID-19 Minnesota Fund can only be used for expenses incurred during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency as declared by Executive Order 20-01 to maintain operations of government. Examples of increased costs would be additional healthcare and staffing needs in prison facilities, staffing, and overtime for direct care and treatment, and resources for activities by the National Guard in response to COVID-19, among other expenses incurred by state government.
  • The bill includes $30 million in Child Care Aware grants during the peacetime emergency. These grants ensure essential employees – educators, health care workers, and emergency responders – have access to childcare during this public health emergency.In order to receive a grant, the childcare provider must have a license in good standing or qualify as an emergency provider, must prioritize the children of healthcare and emergency workers, maintain their service during the peacetime emergency, and follow practices that prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
  • This bill also ensures students will receive their work study pay and provides that their financial aid won’t be affected by the efforts to mitigate Coronavirus.Temporary powers granted in the bill allow the Commissioner of Higher Education towaive rules and statues for work study, SELF loans, and the state grant program to assist students in financial hardship. The bill conforms to changes made at the federal level in response to COVID-19.

With small business across the state closing due to the Stay at Home Executive Order, the bill makes $10 million available to small businesses in loans.The loan program is intended to provide immediate relief to small businesses and independent contractors through access to capital to weather the economic crisis from the Coronavirus pandemic.

  • There is additional funding for homeless shelters, food shelves, and the State Soldier Assistance Program for veterans who are affected by COVID-19.
  • The bill, House File 4531, passed 99-4 in the House and 67-0 in the Senate. Governor Walz is expected to quickly sign the bill into law.
  • More specifics on the bill can be found here.

The House and Senate adjourned until Tuesday, April 14. However, legislators have the ability to return sooner should the need arise. During this time period, the legislature will only take up legislation on the House and Senate floors by agreement of the House DFL, House Republican, Senate DFL and Senate Republican caucus leaders.

Governor Walz Daily Press Briefing

This afternoon, Governor Walz and administration officials held a conference call with reporters to update the public on state efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Walz announced the second death of a Minnesotan due to COVID-19. The total infection rate has risen to 346. Yesterday’s number was 287.

  • 31 are currently hospitalized.
  • 18 of those are in the ICU.
  • The age range of those infected is 5-months-old to 104-years-old.

He reiterated that Executive Order 20-20 issued yesterday was meant to slow the spread of infection of COVID-19.

When asked if he’s considering postponing the Minnesota State Fair, the governor responded that it’s too early to make such a decision, but that decisions need to be driven by data and not dates. He said he hasn’t given the idea any thought at this point and it is his hope that by that point, the state would have a handle on the pandemic.

The governor encouraged Minnesotans to visit mn.gov/stayhomemn for more specific information about effect of Executive Order 20-20.

Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Department of Health

Commissioner Malcolm repeated the announcement that Minnesota has 346 COVID-19 cases. The 59 new cases represents the largest day-to-day increase thus far.

She also noted that there have been two deaths due to COVID-19 and expressed condolences. The commissioner said that unfortunately, the Department of Health will be reporting more deaths in the days to come.

Commissioner Malcolm also asked Minnesotans to be cognizant of traveling north to cabins since many northern Minnesota communities are small and don’t have the capacity to absorb large number of healthcare cases.

Director Joe Kelly, Homeland Security & Emergency Management Division

Director Kelly said that his agency’s focus has been increasing ICU capacity within hospitals by looking for alternative space for the care of non-critical patients. These spaces could include hotels, dorms, sports arenas, and convention centers.

He encouraged Minnesotans who work in a business not exempted by the governor’s executive order to volunteer at food banks, food shelves, and homeless shelters. Additionally, Minnesotans can donate blood or provide cash donations to charitable organizations.

Commissioner Steve Grove, Department of Employment and Economic Development

Commissioner Grove encouraged those with questions about the list of occupations determined to be critical to go to mn.gov/deed/critical to look at list of occupations deemed critical. If you have questions, there’s a form businesses can fill out to get clarification. DEED will respond within 24 hours.

Commissioner Grove said DEED is continuing to work on a small business loan guarantee program. The bill being considered by the legislature today will give DEED resources and authorization to support this program.

The commissioner announced that 182,000 people have filed for unemployment insurance since the crisis began last week. That’s roughly 5.9% of the labor force.

  • About 28% of Minnesotans may become temporarily jobless. 60% of those will have access to paid leave. He’s working on expanding unemployment insurance for those who don’t have access to paid leave.
  • About 54,000 restaurant and bar employees have filed for unemployment insurance thus far.

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