MN Government Updates 04.06

Legislature to Reconvene Tomorrow

  • Late last night, the four caucus leaders announced that the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate will reconvene tomorrow, Tuesday, April 7, to pass workers compensation legislation.
  • “Legislative leaders have agreed to reconvene on Tuesday. We will be taking up legislation to address workers’ compensation claims for our first responders, police officers, firefighters, and health care workers, including home health care workers, who contract COVID-19,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa), House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), and Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) in a joint statement:
  • The language of the workers' compensation bill can be found here.
  • Initially, the legislature was scheduled to be on its Easter/Passover break this week. However, given the urgent needs surrounding state efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislature changed its Easter/Passover break to begin on Wednesday, April 8 at 5:00 PM and conclude on Monday, April 13 at 12:00 PM.

Governor Walz Daily Press Briefing April 6

Governor Walz

  • Governor Walz announced that grants are now available for veterans who need financial assistance due to COVID-19. The $6.2 million in funding was recently passed by the legislature.
  • The governor also announced the launch of a Discrimination Helpline to reinforce the state’s efforts to protect the civil rights of Minnesotans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The toll-free helpline, which is at 1-833-454-0148, will allow those who experience or witness bias and discrimination to report incidents to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
  • The helpline is staffed Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Minnesotans can also submit this online form.
  • Walz also outlined the two executive orders issued today:
  • Executive Order 20-28 authorizes out-of-state mental health providers to treat Minnesota patients via telehealth services to help ensure that the mental health needs of Minnesotans are met during the stress and uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Minnesotans receive mental healthcare services from providers in neighboring states. Executive Order 20-28 ensures that care can continue. Executive Order 20-28 also waives certain late fees and deadlines for licensure of dentists, barbers, and cosmetologists.
  • To provide relief to Minnesota’s workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, Executive Order 20-29 makes two amendments to Executive Order 20-05 (Providing Immediate Relief to Employers and Unemployed Workers
  • During the COVID-19 Peacetime Emergency). The first amendment provides an administrative fix to streamline applications for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. The second amendment implements a federal notification requirement that will help Minnesota qualify for additional federal UI funds.
  • When asked when the extension of the “Stay at Home” Executive Order 20-20 will come, the governor responded that he is looking at adjusting the order by evaluating what’s working and what’s not sector-by-sector and talking to business and labor groups. He indicated that he hopes to have an answer in the next day or two.

Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Department of Health

  • Commissioner Malcolm announced there are now 986 laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19. This is 51 more than Sunday’s report.
  • She also announced there is one more COIVD-19 death since Sunday’s report. This brings the state total to 30.
  • Currently, 115 patients are hospitalized – with 57 of those in the ICU.
  • The commissioner provided a demographic break-down of those who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • 74% are white.
  • Just under 20% are unknown/other.
  • 6% are black.
  • 4% Asian.
  • 1% Indian/Alaskan Native.
  • Commissioner Malcolm reminded Minnesotans who are sick to stay home and isolate. She also said that wearing a cloth face mask in public does not make the “Stay at Home” directives less important.
  • Masks can help stop the spread of the mask wearer’s germs to others, but it does not protect the wearer from acquiring the illness. Masks are secondary protection.
  • The commissioner implored Minnesota not to wear surgical or N95 masks that are needed for healthcare workers, long-term care workers, and first responders.
  • Additionally, the commissioner encouraged Minnesotans to call 911 if they are having major health issues that are not related to COVID-19 – such as severe bleeding, difficulty breathing, or having symptoms of a heart attack. She assured Minnesotans that the state’s healthcare system remains equipped to treat non-COVID-19 healthcare emergencies.

Director Joe Kelly, Homeland Security & Emergency Management Division

  • Director Kelly announced that Governor Walz has sent a letter to President Trump requesting a major disaster declaration for Minnesota.
  • Under a major disaster declaration, the state would receive federal reimbursement for certain activities including activation of an emergency operations center, National Guard costs, law enforcement, mental health support, and other measures necessary to protect public health and safety.

Commissioner Steve Grove, Department of Employment and Economic Development

  • Commissioner Grove announced that 342,032 unemployment insurance applications have been submitted since March 16.
  • 90% of these applications have been processed.
  • This is 120,000 more unemployment insurance applications than all of 2019.
  • The commissioner also said that his department is taking steps to address an eligibility issue that has been sorted out by Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-29.
  • Now, DEED will not have to delay providing unemployment benefits for those on sick pay or vacation.
  • This will allow 45,000 applications to be eligible now for unemployment insurance.
  • The executive order also allows for the $600 per week, as authorized by the federal CARES Act, to be distributed
  • Commissioner Grove did note, however, that his department continues to wait for additional guidance from the federal government on several aspects of implementing the CARES Act on the state level.

Commissioner Larry Herke, Department of Veterans Affairs

  • Commissioner Herke announced that the department is now processing applications for financial assistance for veterans who have been impacted by COVID-19.
  • This $6.2 million of funding provided by the legislature is available in grant form to eligible veterans and their families by applying through MinnesotaVeteran.org/COVIDRelief
  • Minnesota Senate COVID-19 Response Working Group Holds Third Meeting
  • Today, the Minnesota Senate held a third COVID-19 Response Working Group meeting – focusing on the state budget. Testifiers included Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans and the
  • National Conference for State Legislators. It was made clear that the budget forecast has significantly shifted with the shelter in place rule going into effect. Federal funds from the COVID-19 package will also allocate Minnesota with $2.16 billion. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) summarized his priorities and next steps including:
  • Dedicating revenue streams that are more targeted than the federal relief plan.
  • Considering a bonding bill, but including precautions about how to fund it.
  • Exploring other ways to stimulate the economy that don’t require spending – such as delaying taxes for businesses and loosening regulations for new business startups.

The next meeting of the Senate COVID-19 Response Working Group will be held on Tuesday, April 7, at 11 AM. The meeting will be focused on long term care. The public may view livestream coverage on the Minnesota Senate’s Facebook page.

Amos A. Briggs | Government Relations
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