There’s a lot to talk about this week with numerous issues related to COVID-19 continuing to develop. But, before we talk about those things, I want to wish you and your family a blessed Easter/Passover. Things will be different this holiday weekend, but let’s make the best of it by using technology to connect with friends and loved ones and to attend religious services that are available online.
As for a legislative update, I continue working to help the people of District 16A as we take on challenges related to COVID-19. Difficulties we face under the Stay at Home order issued by Gov. Tim Walz will continue for the foreseeable future since, on Wednesday, he extended his order until May 4.
The governor indicated the extension will push the low end of the peak into the range where we will have enough ventilators and ICU beds in Minnesota to accommodate patients – according to modeling data the governor is using that we have not seen in complete form.
I am hearing frustration from a number of people over this lack of transparency. Minnesotans want to work together to do our part to protect the health of our neighbors. But, if the governor is making decisions that impact thousands of businesses and millions of Minnesotans, he should be open about the data driving his actions.
In extending his order, the governor also announced flexibility for more businesses to continue operating, including lawn care, landscaping, agricultural equipment repair, garden centers, nurseries and more. It is good that at least some of our workers can get back on the job, but I am hearing from numerous families and small businesses whose lives have been turned upside-down. I am among legislators who are pushing the administration, asking for exemptions, flexibility and common sense. If there are businesses that can protect the safety of employees and customers, let’s allow them to do so.
In other news:
Workers’ compensation expanded
The Minnesota House on Tuesday approved a bill (H.F. 4537) ensuring first responders and health care workers receive their full workers’ compensation benefits and coverage in the event they test positive for COVID-19. I was pleased to vote “yes” on this bill because it addresses concerns that damages suffered from the virus would not be covered by the state’s current no-fault workers’ compensation system, a form of insurance that provides salary replacement and medical benefits for workers injured in the course of their jobs. This will provide a sense of security for our front-line workers and also heads off potential litigation to ensure our system operates effectively and efficiently. The people who are going above and beyond to help us fight this crisis deserve to be protected and this bill is a good step in making that happen. Click here for more details of the bill.
Disaster loans for farmers
The Minnesota Disaster Recovery Loan Program is now accessible to farmers who are suffering financial damages related to the COVID-19 outbreak after the Legislature expanded access to the funds. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture indicates program dollars can be used to “replace livestock or flocks, make building improvements, or cover the loss of revenue. Loan proceeds may also be used to repair or replace septic and water systems, and replace destroyed agricultural buildings.”
Like everyone else, farmers are facing a great deal of uncertainty and unknowns as we try to work our way through COVID-19 issues. The changes we made to this loan program add flexibility to help us adapt to evolving circumstances. This is a good deal for farmers and I hope these changes are helpful to them. More can be found at the MDA website, or by calling (651) 201-6666.
Two programs for veterans
On March 26, the Minnesota Legislature created two new programs to assist Veterans who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Disaster Relief Grants and Special Needs Grants both have been activated specifically in response to mitigate the economic effects COVID-19 is having on our veterans and their families. Our veterans take care of us and it’s our responsibility to take care of them when times are tough. Everyone has their own set of circumstances and veterans, too, are being hurt by the COVID-19 outbreak. I hope they take a look at what is available and take advantage of these programs that are being offered. Full information can be found at this link.
New insulin option
A new, low-cost option is available for people who are having trouble affording insulin. Eli Lilly and Company has introduced the Lilly Insulin Value Program, allowing anyone with commercial insurance and those without insurance to fill their monthly prescription of Lilly insulin for $35. Lilly indicates in a press release that the program was motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and also says it has no plans for discontinuing the program in the future. Call the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center at (833) 808-1234 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, or click here for more.
Unemployment insurance increase
The Department of Employment and Economic Development announces it has authorized the first payments of the temporary additional compensation of $600/week for people receiving unemployment insurance benefits. DEED indicates no additional steps are necessary for people receiving unemployment to receive the increase; it will take place automatically. The week beginning March 29 is the first week for which you can get the additional $600, with those requests having started April 5. This website has more details on this and other unemployment insurance subjects.
Look for more news soon. The House is scheduled to have a session on Tuesday, so we’ll see what that entails. Until next time, have a blessed Easter/Passover and, as always, I’m here to work for you so let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.