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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear Neighbors,

We are in the middle of an unprecedented public health crisis that is significantly impacting the lives of Minnesotans. I want to be clear that we will eventually get through this, and life will return to normal. Until then, I urge you to listen to the advice of health experts as we all do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Last night, the House unanimously approved legislation that provides nearly $200 million in additional funding to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The bill provides $50 million to the Public Health Response Contingency Account for use by providers, ambulance services, health care clinics, hospitals, and long term care facilities. It also allocates $150 million to the newly-created Health Care Response Fund for grants to providers for costs necessary for COVID-19 response.

Included in the bill are protections for taxpayers including canceling unspent money back to the general fund, legislative oversight, and consequences for unauthorized spending of grant funds. 

This bill ensures Minnesota's entire public and private health care infrastructure is fully prepared to respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

Altered Legislative Operations

The House will formally remain in session as the state addresses the pressing public health issue surrounding COVID-19, with meetings and floor sessions taking place on an on-call basis until April 14. Alternate means of working will allow the House to respond to the needs of Minnesotans, while also fully complying with Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) guidelines including social distancing, limiting large gatherings, telework, and increased cleaning measures necessitated by COVID-19.

Despite this, I will continue to work hard to ensure our communities are represented.

I remain available via phone or email and encourage you to reach out if you have any questions or concerns.

The Minnesota Department of Health has hotlines available to assist Minnesotans, including a public line (651) 201-3920 and a line for questions specifically related to schools and/or childcare (651) 297-1304. Several online resources also are available to help individuals stay up to date:

School Closures

Governor Walz has ordered all public schools to be closed to students on Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, March 27 to accommodate planning between school staff, teachers, and administrators with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Please visit your local school district’s website for more information about how schools in your area are handling this.

The Minnesota Department of Health has a hotline available related to schools and/or childcare. Call (651) 297-1304 for more information. 

Governor Walz Executive Orders

Yesterday, Governor Walz issued an executive order to close all restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms, and other similar spaces. Grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and others will remain open. Delivery and curbside pickup for restaurants will remain available.

  • Beginning March 17 at 5:00 PM, continuing until March 27, at 5:00 PM, these facilities cannot have food or drink consumed, or otherwise be occupied for on-premise consumption.
  • Food and Beverage service venues are encouraged to offer delivery, take out, window, walk or drive-up service. Five members of the public are allowed on-premises to pick up their orders if they are six feet apart while picking up their orders.
  • Violation of this Executive Order is a misdemeanor punished by a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail.

This step by Governor Walz was both dramatic and in line with steps being taken by other governors and mayors across the country and around the world. 

This is a difficult decision but is aimed at “flattening the curve” of the outbreak in hopes of averting the situation we’ve seen in countries like Italy where health systems have been overwhelmed. 

If you or a loved one has lost their job or had their hours reduced as a result of these closings, please encourage them to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. You can find more information at www.uimn.org.

The governor issued an additional executive order to ensure workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have full access to unemployment benefits. According to the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program, the executive order makes applicants eligible for unemployment insurance benefits if:

  • A healthcare professional or health authority recommended or ordered them to avoid contact with others.
  • They have been ordered not to come to their workplace due to an outbreak of a communicable disease.
  • They have received notification from a school district, daycare, or other childcare provider that either classes are canceled or the applicant’s ordinary childcare is unavailable, provided that the applicant made reasonable effort to obtain other childcare and requested time off or other accommodation from the employer and no reasonable accommodation was available.

The executive order also eliminates the one week waiting period to ensure applicants have access to unemployment benefits as quickly as possible and assures business owners that benefits paid as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will not increase their future unemployment tax rate.

If your employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the department urges you to apply for unemployment benefits online. Again, please visit the Unemployment Insurance Program website at www.uimn.org to learn more. 

Staying in Touch

Please continue to reach out to me by phone or email. I can be reached at 651-296-4229 or via email at rep.glenn.gruenhagen@house.mn.

Be well and God Bless,

Glenn

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