Work is ramping up at the Minnesota Legislature! My colleagues and I are reviewing the governor’s budget proposal, advancing key bills to help Minnesotans weather the COVID-19 pandemic, and laying the groundwork for our legislative priorities. For me, that includes ensuring all Minnesotans have a safe place to call home.
This week, I’m presenting one of my bills to a House committee for the first time. My Metro Demo Expansion bill (HF 780), which increases the number of supportive housing units available across the seven-county metro area, will be heard on Wednesday, February 17 at 10:30 a.m. in the Preventing Homelessness Division. This bill aims to provide much-needed shelter and services to individuals and families.
Protecting Minnesotans’ Health
As a member of the Health Finance and Policy Committee, I heard several important bills last week. On Tuesday, the committee heard legislation that outlines when face coverings must be worn (HF 604) and, importantly, when these requirements expire. Under this bill, masks would be required in businesses and public settings and on public transportation until the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health determine that they’re no longer needed to protect public health. While several Minnesotans spoke for and against the bill, the health care professionals who testified were unanimous in their support.
The next day we heard the Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act (HF 660), legislation that addresses appalling disparities in maternal and child health outcomes. In Minnesota, the maternal mortality rate for Black mothers is 2.3 times higher than the mortality rate for white women. Mortality rates are higher for Black infants as well. If you’d like to learn more about this issue, I encourage you to watch the hearing or read a Washington Post article about groundbreaking research conducted by Dr. Rachel Hardeman, an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota who testified at the hearing. Dr. Hardeman and her team of researchers found that the mortality rate for Black babies was cut in half when they were cared for by Black doctors.
United Black Legislative Caucus Announces 2021 Priorities
Black History Month, which is recognized each February, is an opportunity to celebrate Black Americans and acknowledge the contributions they’ve made to our communities, state, and nation. Reflecting on the past should spur us all to continue fighting for justice and equality not just this month, but year round. We must address racial inequities and ensure Black Minnesotans have the opportunity to succeed and thrive.
Minnesota has some of the worst racial disparities in the nation, and the COVID-19 pandemic has widened many of these gaps. Last week, my colleagues in the United Black Legislative Caucus (UBLC) announced their agenda for the 2021 legislative session. The bold plan addresses disparities in economic opportunity, housing, education, health and human services, transportation, public safety, and environmental justice. I invite you to watch the announcement here and to follow the UBLC on Facebook.
Energy Assistance Available
With temperatures expected to remain below zero this week, I want to make sure that everyone in our community is aware of Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program (EAP). Last year, this program helped nearly 118,000 households pay their utility bills, purchase emergency fuel, and repair or replace malfunctioning furnaces.
The EAP serves renters and homeowners who earn less than $54,357 for a household of four or $28,266 for a household of one. If you’re eligible, you can apply for assistance through your local service provider. Call 800-657-3710 and press 1, or visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s EAP webpage. New applicants have until May 31 to apply; however, funding is limited and administered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Stay in Touch
Finally, I want to remind you that Rep. Sandra Masin, Sen. Jim Carlson, and I are holding a town hall this weekend. We hope you can join us on Saturday, February 20 at 10:30 a.m. Please register to join us on Zoom or visit my Facebook page when the event begins.
I hope you’ll stay in touch whether or not you can attend our town hall. You can contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-4128.