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Legislative Update from Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen

Friday, March 27, 2020

Dear Neighbors,

Yesterday, the Minnesota Legislature overwhelmingly approved a package of provisions that will help Minnesota be better prepared to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since this crisis began, legislators have been working together to respond to it.

The last week has been a nice reminder that here in Minnesota, legislators can put party differences aside and work for the good of our state and the people we represent.

Many legislators worked around the clock for the last several days to find language that everyone could agree to. Both Democrats and Republicans I am proud of the bipartisan work we did, and the overwhelmingly bipartisan support it earned in the final vote.

This bill helps every Minnesotan in some way, and provides assistance in particular to small businesses and their employees, childcare providers, farmers, veterans, educators, and many others. If you would like to see everything that is included in the bill, you can see it here.

The legislation includes more than $300 million for the state’s COVID-19 response efforts, including provisions for small businesses, college students, childcare providers, and state agencies. A dedicated ‘COVID-19 Minnesota Fund’, which includes a bipartisan oversight commission, will be used to allocate the funds during this public health emergency.

Here are some highlights from the bill:

  • Creating a Small Business Loan Guarantee Program. By providing a state-backed loan guarantee, this funding will encourage lenders to make loans to small businesses hurt by COVID-19. These loans can go to business with up to 250 employees and have a maximum cap of $200,000. Employers are encouraged to check the DEED website at mn.gov/deed/ for updates on this program.
  • This bill codified the Governor’s Small Business Emergency Loan Program executive order, appropriating the $30 million the Governor had already determined to use in his EO.
  • $6.2 million to ensure that veterans and surviving spouses are able to receive financial support if they experience hardship during COVID-19. These funds can be used for housing and medical hardship.
  • Allowing the Commissioner of Commerce to delay, stay, or waive licensing, investigative, or other deadlines? in the event of a declaration of a national security or peacetime emergency.
  • Creating protective measures for students, grantees, and borrowers in state grant and work-study programs.
  • Extending the expiration date for Minnesota driver licenses, Minnesota State ID cards, and disability parking certificates and permits for an extended period while the peacetime emergency declared by the governor remains in place. Please note: license tabs are not exempt because you can renew online or mail in your application for renewal.
  • Allowing food shelves to use funds provided in response to the COVID-19 outbreak to purchase diapers and toilet paper.
  • Providing $9 million from the General Fund to DHS to address food banks, food shelves, and transportation needs during this outbreak.
  • Expanding the eligible uses for the RFA Disaster Recovery Loan Program and the Highly Pathogenic Animal Disease Emergency accounts to include COVID-19.
  • Instituting unemployment insurance changes such as modification of benefits for the recently unemployed.

Letter to Governor Walz

Governor Walz's Executive Order 20-09 postponed all elective surgeries and procedures statewide. While numerous surgeries have been cancelled or rescheduled, abortions have continued to happen.

That's why I joined House Republicans this week in sending a letter to Governor Walz urging him to reclassify abortions as an “elective” procedure.  

There is no reason that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers should be exempt from the Governor's executive order. The Governor needs to prioritize resources like personal protective equipment (PPE) for our doctors and nurses who are leading the fight against COVID-19.

Abortion procedures use up these precious PPE resources and put doctors and nurses at risk.

Click here to read more: https://bit.ly/3as9hK8

Childcare Options

This week the Minnesota Initiative Foundations launched the Emergency Child Care Grant Program to provide immediate support to providers in Greater Minnesota who serve the children (birth to age five) of first responders, health care workers, or other workers deemed essential during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency. Grants of $500 to $3000 will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. You can apply using this online application.

Summary of Governor Walz Daily Press Briefing

Below is a summary of information from Governor Walz’s daily press briefing for today, Friday, March 27th.

  • 398 confirmed cases (+52 from yesterday), 4 total deaths (+2 from yesterday). Both deaths today in long-term care facilities. 
  • Minnesota now has 1268 ventilators available and working to procure more. Efforts continue to secure more personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Preparations continue to expand testing, hospital, and ICU capacity. 
  • Executive Order 20-21 clarifies previous order, extending leave policies given to state employees to Constitutional Offices. 
  • EO 20-22 gives flexibility for Local Governments and reporting to the State Auditor
  • EO 20-23 gives flexibility for health care worker requirements. Not cutting corners, but puts more people on the front lines. 
  • EO 20-24 gives relief for motor carriers, assists with moving food supplies to markets. Relaxes weight limits, etc. 
  • 109 National Guard troops mobilized for COVID-19 response. 
  • Metro Mobility is delivering meals to those they serve.
  • 49% drop in traffic accidents since emergency declaration; Minnesotans are doing their part to stay at home and limit spread.
  • Since the start of the outbreak, 44 hospitalizations, remainder of cases have recovered at home. 34 patients currently hospitalized, 14 in intensive care (ICU). 
  • The biggest challenge remains lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) in nursing facilities.
  • HSEM is coordinating delivery of PPE to nursing facilities. Efforts continue to strengthen and expand capacity, identify potential temporary hospital sites, secure PPE, etc. 
  • HSEM requests that people use state websites/hotlines for questions about the Stay at Home order; 911 calls are spiking with routine questions from people about Governor's order.
  • Minnesota has among the highest share of workers applying for UI. Expecting to hit 220,000 by end of today. More since March 16 than in all of 2019 combined. 
  • Over the past 7 days (250 districts/charters reporting): 800,000+ meals served by schools.
  • Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) officials are still collecting information from hospitals statewide; not yet ready to announce how many hospital beds and ventilators are available or will be needed.
  • In response to a question about how to prioritize care in the event, hospitals become overwhelmed, MDH Commissioner Malcolm says there are standardized guidelines in place created by medical professionals, ethicists, etc. 
  • Governor says it has been one week since he came into contact with COVID-19 case, remains symptom-free. He has not been tested per current MDH testing guidance.
  • Governor says we have not shut down most construction activity. Companies have brought in infectious disease experts and are practicing social distancing.
  • Modeling work continues, factors are not far enough along yet to determine the impact of measures taken so far. 
  • Governor has asked staff to circle back on golf and whether golf courses should remain open. They will continue working on and evaluating that & other issues like it. 

Stay 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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