The Legislature is now back in a special session, the second in as many months. These special sessions have been called in part to allow us to consider whether to end the Governor’s peacetime emergency powers; last night the House voted down a resolution that would have done so. But I hope that it will be productive in other ways as well, with the passage of police and criminal justice reform, a strong jobs and infrastructure bill, and help for St. Paul and Minneapolis to recover and rebuild from the civil unrest earlier this summer.
There is a lot of material in this legislative update, as this will be my last until after November 3. Legislators aren’t allowed to send this type of message for the next several months. Nevertheless, I’m still available to answer questions and discuss issues that are important to you. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at (651) 296-4199.
Racism as a Public Health Crisis
On Tuesday, the House Rules & Legislative administration committee heard a resolution that would declare racism to be a public health crisis and take a series of steps to address it. I was proud to vote in favor. The resolution is likely to be considered by the full House early next week. You can watch a video of the committee hearing here.
As we work to slowly reopen Minnesota, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 still presents a danger to our communities. Cases are surging in states like Texas and Florida, and officials there have slowed or reversed their reopening plans as a result. We can’t risk going backward in Minnesota, so please continue to be vigilant. Wear a mask in public, practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently.
Minnesota’s COVID-19 Dashboard remains a great source for accurate, updated information about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Stay Safe webpage covers the resources available to the public as we work to reopen Minnesota safely.
Be Counted in the 2020 Census
If you haven’t completed the 2020 Census, please take a few minutes to respond and remind your friends and family to do the same. Census data determines how billions of dollars in federal funding is allocated and impacts representation at the local, state, and national level. Minnesota currently leads the nation with a 71.5 percent response rate! You can help maintain our lead by responding online here, by phone, or by mail. If you haven’t responded yet, please do so as soon as possible so fewer census workers will need to go door to door during the pandemic.
Minnesota has received significant federal funding for coronavirus relief. Governor Walz has recently made a series of announcements – discussed in the next few sections - as to how these funds will be spent.
On Tuesday, the Governor announced that he is directing $100 million of these funds toward housing assistance. This will prevent evictions and homelessness and help Minnesotans who are struggling to afford their homes because of the pandemic. Minnesotans will be able to apply for assistance in August. The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency is currently accepting applications from local organizations who’d like to help administer the new program. You can find more information here.
Support for Child Care Providers
Early care and learning is a critical sector that was under deep financial stress even before the pandemic. As another use of the federal funding, $56 million will go to support child care providers experiencing increased costs and decreased revenue due to COVID-19. You can read my statement on this announcement here.
Action to Combat Hunger
A third use of the federal coronavirus relief funding will be to combat hunger. $12 million will go to Minnesota’s seven food banks, as well as approximately 300 food shelves, which have seen a significant increase in demand since the pandemic began. The federal funding will help meet that need.
On a related note, the deadline to apply for the P-EBT (Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer) program has been extended to July 31. More than 200,000 families have already applied for or received these benefits, which help parents and guardians buy food when their children aren’t receiving school lunches. Families with children who received free or reduced-price school meals this year may receive up to $325 per child and an additional $100 per child in August. You can read about the P-EBT program and apply here. More information about food assistance can be found here.
Request an Absentee Ballot
Absentee voting is the best way to protect yourself, other voters, and election officials healthy and safe during the pandemic. You can request an absentee ballot for the upcoming primary and general elections here. The online application will ask for an email address and an identification number – either a Minnesota-issued driver’s license, Minnesota ID card, or the last four digits of your Social Security number. You can check your voter registration status here and update it here.
Minnesota is taking steps to protect those who choose to vote in person, including moving polling places out of residential buildings and sites that don’t allow physical distancing. However, election officials are anticipating a volunteer shortage since many folks who’ve helped out in the past aren’t able to do so because of COVID-19. If you’re a young Minnesotan without any underlying health conditions, please consider serving as an election judge. 16- and 17-year olds can help out too! You can find more information and apply with Ramsey County here.
New Affordability for Prescription Drugs (and More)
Several new laws took effect at the beginning of July, including the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act. This legislation provides emergency access to insulin and makes this lifesaving medication more affordable long-term. The Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act, which requires drug manufacturers to make their pricing information public, also went into effect recently. Together, these new laws will help lower the cost of prescription drugs. More information about these laws and others that took effect on July 1 can be found here.
Thanks for Connecting at Community Events
Finally, I’m grateful to all who attended the Senate District 64 virtual town hall with Sen. Cohen, Rep. Her, and me. If you weren’t able to join us, you can watch the entire event here.
Thanks also to the many advocates, policymakers, and community members who convened for the Prenatal to Three Policy Forum, the quarterly series which I founded in 2016 and which is cohosted by the University of St. Thomas. The latest event included a recap of the legislative session, as well as the first in a new series of conversations on prentatal-to-three and racism. You can find more information and a video of the forum at p3minnesota.org.
It's an honor to serve as your state representative. Have a great summer.
State Representative, District 64B
439 State Office Building
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