I hope you are all staying warm! Looks like we will be above freezing this week, so hang in there. I know the colder weather presents extra challenges for many families. Information is available here about Minnesota’s energy assistance program for those who qualify.
Bills Moving Forward
In addition to chairing the House Judiciary Finance & Civil Law Committee, several bills I am chief authoring are making their way through the committee process.
House File 310 - Expanding Mandated Reporting to Protect Youth: After learning more about the USA Gymnastics abuse scandal, I looked up Minnesota’s mandated reporting statutes and realized there is currently a loophole for youth programs that occur outside of school or daycare settings. HF 310 expands mandated reporting requirements to include more employees who have face-to-face contact with children, including club sport coaches, scout leaders, church employees, and other youth supervisors and coaches. You can read more about this bill and why it is important in this Star Tribune article. You can also watch committee debate and testimony here.
House File 336 - Limiting Unnecessary Drivers License Suspensions: HF 336 would end many drivers license suspensions that are unrelated to public safety. Right now, approximately 20,000 Minnesotans have suspended licenses for failing to pay fines or fees, or missing a court date. These suspensions are purely punitive. Instead of creating safer communities, it makes it harder for people to drive to work legally and can create additional unnecessary criminal charges. I encourage you to watch my presentation of the bill and following testimony in the House Transportation Committee here, and in the House Public Safety Committee here. This bill is a bipartisan effort and has received strong support in its first two committees.
House File 312 - Legal Counsel for Parents: HF 312 would require court appointed legal counsel in more child protection proceedings. This bipartisan bill is supported by child and parent advocates and would help parents receive needed legal counsel in these high stakes, often complicated, proceedings. You can watch testimony and discussion around this bill here.
Beware Fraudulent 1099-G Forms
Scammers filed fraudulent claims for unemployment compensation using stolen personal information. You may get an incorrect Form 1099-G from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for unemployment benefits you did not receive.
If you receive one of these fraudulent forms you should:
If you cannot get a corrected 1099-G before filing your tax return, you should only report the income you received. If you receive a legitimate 1099-G, file as you normally would. Unemployment compensation is taxable income and should be included in household income. A legitimate 1099-G should include any of these:
Paid sick and safe
No one should have to choose between caring for themselves or a loved one and a paycheck. That’s why the House DFL introduced a new bill to expand Earned Sick and Safe Time. The bill aims to provide an important short-term benefit to workers by allowing them to accrue sick time based on the number of hours that they work. The impossible choice between a paycheck and taking time off to care for a sick child is a real problem in Minnesota, especially for low-wage workers and those in the service industry. This requirement has several key additional benefits, including healthier workplaces and schools, greater support for caregivers, and reduced health care costs. I will continue to support this critical legislation.
Low Income Energy Assistance Program (EAP)
As Minnesotans continue to feel the impact of COVID-19 and the quarantine, we want everyone to know that there is still assistance available to income eligible households (both owners and renters) for home heating bills and furnace repairs. The Energy Assistance Program can help by providing financial assistance:
The application period is open until May 31st, 2021. Here are flyers in English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong:
You can find more information and links to apply at the Minnesota Department of Commerce website.
COVID-19 trends in Minnesota are headed in the right direction, with case numbers and positivity rates trending downward. The federal government is gradually increasing the supply of doses, and the state is adapting the process to ensure that the vaccines we receive are distributed more effectively and equitably. So far, 617,896 Minnesotans have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 189,902 have completed the series. More information is available on the state’s Vaccine Data Dashboard.
Minnesotans who are 65 or older can use this tool to find nearby vaccine providers and make an appointment. As I mentioned above, there is still a limited amount of vaccine, so appointments may not be available everywhere.
In acknowledgment of our progress against this virus, Governor Walz announced new standards for restaurants, gyms, and other indoor venues. Executive Order 21-07, effective Saturday, February 13 at noon, takes steps to further reopen Minnesota’s economy safely, including:
Let’s stay vigilant in our efforts to keep each other safe by masking, distancing, washing our hands frequently, avoiding large in-door gatherings, and getting tested if we feel sick.
If you are a taxpayer, you can begin filing your state and federal income tax returns. You have until Thursday, April 15, 2021, to file and pay state and federal income taxes. Be sure to see if you qualify for free tax preparation. If your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is $72,000 or less, you may qualify to file electronically for free. Use the Minnesota Department of Revenue website to see if you qualify for free state and federal income tax filing. Learn more about filing for taxes here.
Stay in Touch
As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance or if you have questions or feedback that you’d like to share. You can follow me on Facebook here and you can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-7153.