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House DFL outlines economic security agenda, Governor Walz extends Stay at Home order

Friday, May 1, 2020

















Rep. Winkler

































Dear neighbor,

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend our daily lives. I hope you and your family are staying healthy and safe. Despite the significant challenges and uncertainty before us, we remain confident in our ability to come together and pull through.

The Minnesota House of Representatives is continuing to work closely with Governor Walz and his Administration and do everything we can to help Minnesotans during this difficult time. Here’s an update on our work at the Legislature and recent steps in our state’s COVID-19 response.

 

House and Senate DFL outline economic security agenda

This week, House and Senate DFL leaders and legislators outlined our economic security agenda to assist Minnesotans during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Many of the proposals are moving forward in the DFL-led House, but are stalled in the Republican-led Senate.

Minnesotans are looking for help in this crisis in whatever way possible. We have the resources we need to address this crisis; we just need the will to act. The severity of the COVID crisis has renewed our commitment in building a Minnesota that works better for everyone by investing in our people, in our state, and in a better future for all of us.

 

Economic security agenda

















 

















In response to the pandemic, House and Senate DFLers are focused on the following priorities:


Keeping Minnesotans safe in their homes with a $100 million investment in housing assistance
Providing economic security for our education professionals by ensuring full pay for our hourly school employees
Providing assistance for small and minority-owned businesses
Providing economic security for the personal care assistants who care for vulnerable Minnesotans through a well-deserved and long-overdue wage increase
Keeping Minnesotans connected by ensuring all Minnesotans have access to the broadband they need to go online
Helping families make ends meet by using available federal funding to boost payments for low-income working Minnesotans in the Minnesota Family Investment Program


 

On Monday, the House Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division approved legislation to increase funding for high-speed broadband internet across the state. The bill invests $10 million in the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program to expand high-speed broadband. It also invests $8 million in a new Distance Learning Broadband Access Grant Program to provide students with the equipment necessary to access learning materials on the internet and reimburse school districts for costs to provide broadband access. Finally, it invests $2 million in the new Telemedicine Equipment Reimbursement Grant Program to reimburse health care providers and counties that purchase and install telemedicine equipment to provide COVID-19-related health care services.

On Wednesday, the House Ways & Means Committee passed legislation that provides compensation for hourly school employees and allows entities that contract with schools to provide services such as school bus operators to be reimbursed for paying their employees, for changes in school employment practices as a result of COVID-19 related school closures, and the conversion to distance learning programs.

Today, the House Ways & Means Committee is advancing legislation that invests $100 million in the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) to assist thousands of Minnesota renters and homeowners with their monthly payments. Senate Republicans continue to insist on only one-third of the funding and the ability for landlords to evict their unemployed tenants, leaving them with nowhere to go.

Ways & Means also considered HF 168, which delivers a 15 percent temporary rate increase for personal care assistance (PCA) services during the COVID-19 pandemic and makes other program modifications.

Legislators are also working on legislation to provide a one-time, $500 supplemental payment for individuals enrolled in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). MFIP helps families with children meet their basic needs while helping parents move to financial stability through work.

 

Governor Walz extends Stay at Home order to May 18th

Governor Walz announced an extension of his Stay at Home Executive Order, directing Minnesotans to limit movements outside of their homes until May 18, 2020. The Governor also announced that starting May 4, retail businesses and other non-critical businesses may begin offering curbside pick-up and delivery.

Now is not the time to retreat. If we continue to fight this virus, we can build a stronger, safer, and better Minnesota as we come out of this crisis. Calls to disregard public health concerns now will further delay our efforts to get more Minnesotans safely back to work. Instead of putting Minnesotans’ health at risk, we should continue focusing on how to safeguard Minnesotans’ health and well-being now and into the future. That’s exactly what Governor Walz and his Administration are trying to do.

You can learn more here.

Walz

Minnesota House State Government Finance Division Approves Vote-By-Mail Legislation

This week, the Minnesota House State Government Finance Division approved House File 1603, which authorizes the Minnesota Secretary of State to direct that the 2020 state primary and state general elections be conducted primarily by mail.

The standards and procedures provided in current law for conducting a vote-by-mail election, which is currently an option for certain towns and small cities located outside of the metropolitan area, would apply to the upcoming primary and election, as would all other existing laws and rules governing the election process. The Minnesota Secretary of State would also be permitted to include specific requirements related to polling place closures and the availability of vote centers as part of the mail balloting directions.

Minnesotans don’t want to be Wisconsin. Dozens of people in Wisconsin have been diagnosed with COVID-19 contracted because they were forced into unsafe situations to vote. Expanding mail-in balloting is essential to ensuring Minnesotans can vote safely.

 

House Agriculture Committee holds hearing on food supply issues

On Tuesday, legislators received an update about COVID-19’s impact on Minnesota’s food supply from Thom Petersen, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), and Dr. Beth Thompson, executive director of the Board of Animal Health. Click here to listen to a recording.

The Legislature has been working closely with Governor Walz, MDA, and agriculture leaders to provide economic security and flexibility for farmers and producers, and implement strict public health guidelines at processing plants to prevent indefinite closures like the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, SD. We are concerned about the food supply but also very concerned for the safety of the workers in these food processing plants, many of whom are immigrants. We need to have their back now more than ever.

As a result of the Legislature’s quick actions in March and April 2020, farmer-lender mediations have been extended by 60 days and farmers impacted by COVID-19 losses are now eligible to receive financial assistance from the Rural Finance Authority’s Disaster Assistance Loan Program. The Legislature also increased funding for Second Harvest Heartland to purchase and distribute milk and protein products such as pork, poultry, beef, dry legumes, cheese, and eggs and distribute them to local food shelves to help Minnesotans facing food insecurity.

 

Contact me

My office will continue to be a resource to find answers to your questions and provide updates about the status of this public health crisis. Please reach out if I can be of assistance and consider sharing this email with your neighbor or relatives. If you know of anyone who would appreciate these updates, please let them know they can subscribe to my email list here.

House staff are tele-commuting in order to comply with public health guidance, so if you call my office at 651-296-7026, please be prepared to leave a voicemail message. You can also send an email to rep.ryan.winkler@house.mn.

Despite receiving a high volume of communication in recent days, I will respond to your messages as soon as possible. Thank you to everyone for doing your part in fighting the spread of COVID-19.

 

Sincerely,

Rep. Ryan Winkler
House Majority Leader


















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