We have accomplished a lot this session and we will continue to move forward on a number of issues. However on the forefront of all our minds is managing the spread of COVID-19. Here are the actions we are taking regarding that, and a couple additional topics you should be aware of.
Minnesota is well prepared for COVID-19
This week the Minnesota House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill to better ensure that public health officials are prepared to respond to COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. The bill appropriates approximately $21 million dollars to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), and was signed into law by Governor Tim Walz.
MDH has set up a public hotline that will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The hotline number is 651-201-3920. You can also visit www.health.state.mn.us for up-to-date and accurate information about what Minnesota is doing to prepare for and stop the spread of COVID-19.
DFL leadership introduced a set of bills this Wednesday that would help Minnesota continue to combat COVID-19 and reduce any financial consequences of mitigating the spread of the virus. Today, Governor Walz declared a peacetime state of emergency, emphasizing the need to deploy community mitigation strategies (canceling large events, avoiding crowds and travel, keeping substantial space between you and others). This is a quickly evolving situation, but these recommendations don’t mean that healthy Minnesotans should bar themselves from leaving their home entirely, rather that practical measures should be taken to prevent the contraction and spread of COVID-19. I will keep you informed of any future developments on our end. The Legislature is monitoring this situation closely and has proven it is ready to react swiftly when the need arises.
Minnesota House approves Paid Family and Medical Leave for everyone
All Minnesotans should have time to care for themselves and their loved ones. I put those values into action on March 5 by passing legislation that gives everyone access to Paid Family and Medical Leave.
The Paid Family & Medical Leave Act provides Minnesotans with up to 12 weeks of leave to recover from illness, bond with a new baby, or care for a loved one. Workers with qualifying family events and medical conditions could apply for leave to take care of a family member or get medical attention for themselves. They would receive a percentage of their regular wages while on leave.
“Far too often, Minnesotans are forced to choose between work and taking care of themselves or a loved one,” said the bill’s chief author Rep. Laurie Halverson. “Paid family and medical leave gives workers time to bond with a new child, help out an aging parent, or care for a sick family member. Offering these benefits would help Minnesota businesses, particularly small employers, attract and retain workers. It’s a common-sense solution that would help millions of hardworking Minnesotans and their families live and work with dignity.”
Funding for paid family and medical leave would be shared between employers and employees. The program is modeled on Unemployment Insurance and would be funded by a premium collected as a payroll deduction. Employers and employees could split the costs evenly, with each paying about .3 percent of their payroll. In the case of a worker earning the state average, the employer and the worker would each pay about $168 a year or $3.23 per week. The bill provides flexibility for employers. Employers can opt out of the program if they provide equivalent benefits.
New economic forecast released
On Feb. 27, Minnesota Management and Budget released the February Economic Forecast, showing a projected positive balance of $1.5 billion for the current biennium. While the forecast does show a positive balance, it includes inflation on the revenue side and excludes it on the spending side in several key areas. When estimated inflation is taken into account, there is a projected deficit of $654 million in fiscal years 2022-23.
Stay in Touch
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. As always, you can reach me at (651) 296-4255 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!