Earlier this week, House DFLers announced our budget framework for the coming year aimed at helping Minnesotans recover from COVID-19 and ensuring everyone can succeed and thrive once the pandemic is behind us. The budget includes:
Following some committee hearings today, lawmakers will begin the customary weeklong Easter/Passover recess. When we return on April 6, we will begin advancing our budget priorities on the House Floor.
Today, Governor Walz announced that starting next Tuesday, March 30, all Minnesotans age 16 or older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Since the vaccine launched, our biggest challenge has been the limited supplies we’ve received from the federal government. Next week, our supply is set to increase substantially and we have a system in place that can quickly distribute the vaccine to Minnesotans.
This doesn’t mean that everyone eligible will be able to get a shot on March 30. Priority will still be given to older Minnesotans, those with underlying health conditions, and people in frontline jobs. It’s important for everyone to sign up for the state’s Vaccine Connector which will alert you to opportunities to receive a shot. Every shot in every arm represents our state coming one step closer to ending this pandemic.
It’s not enough to say “thank you” to the workers on the frontlines who have sacrificed the most over the past year. They deserve action to protect their health, safety, and economic security. This week is Heroes Week in the Minnesota House, and yesterday we passed a series of bills on the floor aimed at meeting the needs of workers, families, and first responders.
Our Earned Sick and Safe Time bill, authored by my Duluth colleague Rep. Liz Olson, would ensure, at a minimum, one hour of paid Earned Sick and Safe Time for every 30 hours worked, up to at least 48 hours per year to stay home when sick or take a family member to the doctor. We also approved legislation to help hospitality workers who have lost their job due to no fault of their own. The bill requires employers to provide eligible workers information about available job positions for which they qualify, and rehire employees based on a preference system of qualifications and seniority.
Last year, we enacted legislation to ensure health care and public safety workers would be eligible for workers’ compensation if they contracted COVID-19 or were exposed to it on the job. This measure is set to expire on May 1, but the pandemic isn’t yet over. Last night, we extended the deadline to December 31 to ensure nurses, doctors, paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, police officers, correctional officers, and child care workers can receive benefits if they become afflicted with COVID.
Finally, we approved a measure barring employers from requesting a job applicant or prospective employee’s pay history, a key step to delivering pay equity for women and people of color. Wednesday was Equal Pay Day, representing how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. States that have implemented similar policies have seen an eight percent increase in pay for women and a 13 percent increase in pay for Black workers.
Earlier this month, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan, a package with significant investments in the economy, public health, families, and businesses to help our nation recover from COVID-19. It also includes investments in state and local governments to help address our unique challenges.
On Monday, the House Ways and Means Committee held an informative overview about how these funds will be used to help our state and our communities rebound from the pandemic. You can watch the entire hearing here or check out the presentation from Minnesota Management and Budget.
Please continue to stay in touch with your viewpoints, ideas, or if I can ever be of assistance. Thank you for the honor to work as your public servant.