I hope you’ve been staying warm during the recent cold spell, and it looks like we’re about to turn the corner a bit. This time of year, many families are having a hard time paying heating bills. No matter how hearty and resilient we are, no one deserves to be left out in the cold. If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available through the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program. Assistance is available with utility bills, fuel deliveries, or furnace repair or replacement. The deadline to apply is May 31, but funding is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Today, the state of Minnesota launched a new tool to help let Minnesotans know when they are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. We all recognize how frustrating it’s been to have such a limited supply, but there are many reasons to be optimistic distribution will greatly accelerate soon, including substantial new orders from the federal government. The new Vaccine Connector will alert Minnesotans when they are eligible, connect you to resources to schedule an appointment, and notify you about vaccine opportunities near you. Learn more and sign up here. Assistance is also available over the phone at 833-431-2053.
Veterans Restorative Justice Act
Veterans too frequently encounter difficulties when returning home, and too often enter the criminal justice system when treatment for substance abuse, mental health difficulties, or other trauma would be more effective. Yesterday, I chaired a hearing of the House Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee where we discussed the Veterans Restorative Justice Act. The legislation would strengthen our veterans’ courts and offer new sentencing recommendations to help veterans – charged with crimes under a certain threshold – avoid jail time while holding them accountable on their path to recovery.
There’s a great deal of bipartisan support for this legislation and as we continue to discuss criminal justice reform broadly, this is one such solution to deliver on our goals in that area. I’m hopeful this will finally be the year to come together and give those who have bravely served our nation the tools they need to seek redemption and turn their lives around.
Middle and High Students Back to the Classroom
Yesterday, Governor Walz announced a plan to have all middle and high schools offer in-person learning by March 8. The direct engagement students have with their teachers and peers is critical toward both their academic achievement and their development into young adults. This plan is possible because of our commitment to stopping the spread of the virus and the progress we’ve made to get folks vaccinated.
Having students back in the classroom is only one step toward rebounding from the pandemic. We must also work together to address learning loss over the past year, invest in critical wrap-around supports, and deliver necessary funding for school districts.
Black History Month
During the month of February, we celebrate Black History Month to honor the accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans, while renewing our commitment to creating opportunities for everybody. I’d like to take the opportunity to recognize our Black Veterans who have bravely served and sacrificed for our nation. The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs has compiled some information and resources on Black Veterans from Minnesota and their history in the U.S. Military.
Please continue to contact me with your feedback and ideas, or if I can ever be of assistance. It’s an honor to represent you.