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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL)

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Minnesota House leaders, legislators introduce additional COVID-19 preparedness legislation

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

St. Paul, Minnesota — One day after Governor Walz signed legislation authorizing $21 million in public health funding, Minnesota House leaders and legislators introduced a package of legislation to help ensure Minnesota is prepared to respond to COVID-19.

“I’m very pleased that we were able to move quickly — with unanimous support in the House and Senate — to provide the Minnesota Department of Health with additional resources, but there are likely to be additional challenges facing Minnesotans,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “This is a rapidly-evolving situation and we need to ensure Minnesota is as prepared as possible.”

“We have several issues that need to be addressed now,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “We are committed to continuing to work together with the Walz Administration and the Minnesota Senate to help the people of Minnesota navigate this public health crisis.”

The package of legislation includes:

 

HF 4326 (Liebling) – Emergency Powers

  • Currently, the governor can declare a peacetime emergency that:

    • Authorizes the governor to exercise emergency powers (e.g., expedited contracting, rules have full force and effect of law, etc.)

    • Cannot be continued for more than five days unless extended by resolution of the Executive Council up to 30 days

  • Current types of peacetime emergencies: act of nature, technological failure or malfunction, terrorist incident, industrial accident, hazardous materials accident, civil disturbance

  • HF 4326 explicitly lists public health emergencies as possible peacetime emergencies.

    • Allows public health emergencies to continue up to 90 days, which is only 30 days currently.

 

HF 3980 (Liebling) – Revolving Loan Account

  • Establishes health care response revolving account (GF transfer)

  • Dept. of Health (MDH) makes no/low-interest loans to providers, clinics, facilities, health systems

  • Loans address planning/preparing/responding costs related to an outbreak

  • MDH prioritizes loans based on:

    • Needs across the health care system; and

    • Whether the provider, clinic, facility, or health system has insufficient access to other resources to respond or would be financially at-risk without a loan

  • Loan uses include (but aren’t limited to): staffing, training and coordination, purchase of supplies (protective and to treat patients), development/implementation of screening, and isolation of patients

 

HF 4414 (Noor) – Unemployment Insurance and sick leave benefits expanded during an outbreak of a communicable disease

  • In the case of an outbreak of a communicable disease, a worker can collect Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits without seeking suitable employment, when

    • the worker is quarantined or jeopardizes the health of others by being in the community, or

    • the employer shuts down temporarily because of the outbreak or tells workers not to come in.

  • In the case of an outbreak of a communicable disease, permissible uses of paid sick leave are expanded to include cases where

    • the worker is quarantined or jeopardizes the health of others, or 

    • the employer shuts down or tells workers not to come in because of an

outbreak of a communicable disease.

 

HF 4415 (Davnie) – Hourly school workers compensated for days canceled due to COVID-19

  • This bill ensures that hourly workers employed by school districts are compensated their hourly rate of pay:

    • During a school closure,

    • If an hourly worker is infected by COVID-19 and has to miss work,

    • If they are deemed as non-essential employees and are sent home from work, normally that would mean they wouldn’t get paid.

 

HF  4416 (Schultz) – Health Plans Cover Testing, Treatment, and Quarantine without Cost-Sharing

  • Health plans must cover testing, treatment, and quarantine costs related to COVID-19.

  • Coverage must be provided—and on the same basis—regardless of whether the provider is participating or nonparticipating.

  • Plans can’t charge cost-sharing (deductibles, coinsurance, co-pay) for testing, treatment, quarantine for COVID-19

  • Repealed when MDH determines COVID-19 is no longer a public health threat.

 

HF TBD (Xiong, J.) – Ban on price gouging goods and services in time of an emergency

  • Deters price gouging during a declared state of emergency by placing a 10% limit on the amount that certain products and services can increase in price.

  • Upon proclamation of emergency, it is illegal to sell certain goods and services for a price greater than 10% above the price charged immediately prior to the proclamation for 30 days.

  • Products and services include:

    • Building materials

    • Consumer food items

    • Emergency supplies

    • Gasoline

    • Medical supplies

    • Repair or reconstruction services

    • Transportation, freight, and storage services

  • The state of emergency may be declared by local officials, the Governor, or the President of the United States for a period of 30 days. That time period may be extended in 30-day increments as needed.

Minnesotans are reminded to take basic precautions to prevent the spread of the illness, including frequent, thorough hand washing, covering their cough with their sleeve, and staying home when sick.

The Minnesota Department of Health has comprehensive information on its website, and a hotline is available at 651-201-3920.