As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to reshuffle our daily lives, I want to make sure to communicate to you that I will continue to represent our community and am available if you have any questions or concerns.
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.
My goal, as your legislator, is to keep you and your family informed on how state government and our community is responding to this crisis and to share resources that you can use to keep your family safe. I strongly encourage everyone to listen to the advice of health experts as we do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID.
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. I've included several online resources that are available to help individuals stay up to date:
On Sunday, Governor Walz announced that all Minnesota schools would close by today, Wednesday, March 18th. Monday, he announced the mandatory closure of restaurants, bars, and other public places where crowds congregate.
Schools will be closed from 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 recently ordered the closure of 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.
While many businesses are unable to offer takeout or curbside pickup options, it may help them weather this storm if we go online now and purchase gift certificates that could be used later. Please support local businesses during this difficult time!
Business closures will cause significant hardship for workers and business owners. To help alleviate some of the financial hardship incurred, the governor issued an executive order to ensure workers affected by COVID-19 have full access to unemployment benefits.
According to the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program, the executive order makes applicants eligible for unemployment insurance benefits if:
If your employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, I urge you to apply for unemployment benefits online.
Visit the Unemployment Insurance Program website at www.uimn.org to learn more.
Emergency Health Care Contingency Funds Approved
Early Tuesday morning, the legislature unanimously approved in the House and Senate, $200 million in additional funding to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding adds to the $21 million passed last week to assist the Department of Health and local health agencies, making resources available to hospitals, providers, ambulance services, long-term care facilities, and other entities who will be involved in the response to this outbreak.
There are taxpayer protections in the bill including legislative oversight, consequences for unauthorized use of funds, and returning money that goes unspent back to the general fund.
We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak as it unfolds, and take additional measures if necessary to maximize our state's ability to respond and care for those who are ill, at-risk, or dealing with the consequences of the widespread school and business closures.
Staying in Touch
I know this is a difficult and uncertain time for many, but we will get through this. Until then please follow the instructions and advice of health experts. Together we should do all that we can to slow the spread of COVID-19. In doing so, we can help protect those who are most vulnerable and potentially ease the burden on our healthcare systems.