Thank you to everyone who participated in my first virtual town hall last week! I’m holding another one tomorrow, April 2 at 7 p.m. To join us, you’ll need to download Zoom, a free video meeting app, and then click this meeting link. If you have not used Zoom before, I recommend taking 15 minutes to try it out ahead of time. It is a really useful tool for staying in touch with people during this time.
If you have any questions that you’d like me to address during the town hall, please feel free to email me ahead of time at firstname.lastname@example.org. Priority will be given to questions from constituents so please include your home address with your email. I look forward to answering your questions and listening to your input.
Questions Asked at My Last Town Hall
A summary of the questions asked at my first virtual town hall meeting is below. I know this is a lot of text, but I want to share it with you in case it is helpful for you or your family.
Question: What happens if there are two sets of rules - one from President Trump and one from Governor Walz?
President Trump has declared a “National Emergency” and Governor Walz has declared a “Peacetime Emergency.” Gov. Walz has stated that he is relying on professionals from the Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota for help with decisions such as the duration of the “stay at home” order.
Even if the federal government sets one set of guidelines, we in Minnesota can still have our own guidelines, in the same way that we currently have federal laws and state laws that we need to adhere to. Generally states’ rights are strong and we are fortunate to have a Governor that is taking the situation seriously.
Question: Will the state of Minnesota ever have to close our borders?
We are not anywhere near that right now and hopefully this is never something that needs to be on the table. Gov. Walz has been in regular communication with other governors in our region (Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota). Hopefully they will continue to work together to keep people safe.
Question: My small business is closed due to one of the Executive Orders. Should I apply for unemployment benefits or a Small Business Administration loan?
Some self-employed individuals and independent contractors who have previously elected to be covered by the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program qualify for UI benefits. The application can be found at: https://www.uimn.org/. Minnesotans are encouraged to apply online as opposed to calling, if possible, due to the unprecedented high call volume at this time.
If you are uncertain about whether UI applies to you, I recommend that you complete an application and have the UI Program issue an official determination about your eligibility.
While it is far from comprehensive, there are a variety of options available for small business owners who do not qualify for UI. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EDIL) is providing small businesses with loans of up to $2 million to help them overcome loss of revenue due to COVID-19. Find out more at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/. Also available, the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Emergency Loan Program is providing interest-free loans of $2,500 to $35,000. Find out more at https://mn.gov/deed/business/financing-business/deed-programs/peacetime/.
Be assured that we are working to make sure that no workers, contractors, or small businesses fall through the cracks during this time. We do not want to leave anyone behind. For constituents in need of guidance or with specific concerns, please reach out to my office directly at email@example.com
Question: I work for a non-profit organization that serves individuals with disabilities in group homes. What impacts will the COVID-19 pandemic have on Home and Community-Based Services? What is the legislature planning to do about this?
First, I want to share that I am seeing this play out at home every day, as my husband is the Clinical Director at a non-profit residential treatment facility. We were facing challenges in this sector of our community before the pandemic even started, particularly when it comes to staffing.
One of the Executive Orders gives the Department of Human Services more flexibility regarding licensing renewals and applications, and a greater ability to do work via telemedicine. The original bill that we passed two weeks ago included some telemedicine provisions, with a definition that included mental health professionals so that people with private health insurance are not dinged by their insurance for, for instance, having a remote appointment as opposed to in person.
As far as group homes, the bill that passed Thursday set up a COVID-19 fund with $200 million allotted for unforeseen things that keep evolving as we move forward in this pandemic. Those funds may be able to be used. I recognize that for care providers who work in group homes, there is no way to physically care for someone from six feet away. I have also been pushing the Walz Administration to remember care facility staff when it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE). The priority for PPE for the N95 masks has been going to hospitals, but at the same time there is medical care that happens in group homes and other residential settings and we want to make sure those people are also protected. I’ve been pushing to make sure that
those people are not forgotten.
If you work in a medical or care field and are not getting the answers you need, or do not have the equipment you need, please reach out to my office. Many of us are thinking of you and very grateful for the work you and your staff are doing to care of people.
Question: Asking for clarification regarding tax filing deadlines.
The deadline for filing Minnesota and federal income taxes for 2019 is now July 15, 2020. There will be no penalties or interest accrued if you meet the new July 15, 2020 deadline. More info about tax deadlines this year can be found here:
That being said, if you want to receive your refund or are otherwise able to file your taxes sooner than July, please do so.
Question: Will there be a vaccine for COVID-19? Do you know of any nonprofits or organizations that are working on designing a vaccine that I could give money to?
Every one of us likely has a connection to someone who has a compromised immune system. Unfortunately, developing a vaccine safely takes a lot of time. The latest estimates are that a vaccine for COVID-19 likely wouldn’t be available until 2021.
In general, there is an overload of information online. If you are looking for additional COVID-19 information, it’s best to rely on trusted sources rather than a Google search. Personally, I use sources like the New York Times, the Atlantic, the World Health Organization, and the Minnesota Department of Health. I am aware that at the beginning of this pandemic there was a great deal of misleading information on Facebook on how to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. It is my hope that public officials and media have stepped up to dispel any untrue information.
I also urge folks who want more information to tune into the daily Minnesota-specific updates with Governor Walz. They are generally streamed by MPR and other local networks every week day at 2pm. You can also sign up for daily updates from the Minnesota Department of Health here: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/situation.html .
Further, if you are able to extend generosity to others, there are many local, established non-profit organizations here in Minnesota that you can contribute to.
Question: Do you know what is being done as far as getting further assistance to Long Term Care Facilities or other health care institutions that are small or independent and not part of a larger health system?
I know from conversations with Lt. Gov. Flanagan and agency staff that preventing outbreaks in long-term care facilities is a high priority. My 94 year old grandma is in a nursing home in Bemidji that is not part of a large system, so I’ve been following this issue and care about it personally as well. State agencies have been proactive in giving facilities information and guidance, including regular phone calls where facility staff can call in for updates. On one call last week, over 1000 individuals called in. They are also able to give intensive assistance when there is a positive case.
As the workers at nursing homes are potentially exposed or have to self-quarantine, the staffing in every part of Minnesota can be an issue, but especially in rural parts of the state.
Related to that, one of the things that legislators are hearing is that folks in more rural areas are having issues with people going up to their cabins. You are free to go to your property but please keep in mind that the healthcare systems in rural areas are not set up to support a large increase in population, certainly not in a pandemic situation. Additionally, some smaller grocery chains up north may not be equipped to handle a large influx of people who buy in bulk. We all need to think of the impacts that our actions will have on others during this time.
Question: I believe I am eligible for unemployment benefits and other resources. Where can I find assistance?
One of the roles I play as a state legislator is as an intermediary between constituents and government agencies, especially when the automated software designed for constituents’ ease does not work as well as it could. Please reach out to my office if we can be of assistance.
You can find step-by-step instructions, with screenshots, of the UI application process on their website at: https://www.uimn.org/applicants/needtoknow/news-updates/covid-19.jsp. I ask that any constituents who have further issues with their UI application contact my office individually.
All three of the school districts in House District 42B, Roseville, White Bear Lake, and Mounds View, are offering school meal resources with minimal eligibility requirements. If you have a child 18 and under that needs access to food, please know that there are resources available. Each school district has a slightly different protocol (below), so please be sure to reach out to your school with any further questions.
Roseville Area Schools is offering two meals per day, with curbside pick-up available from 10:30a-12:30p each weekday. All children age 18 and under are eligible. More details here, including meal delivery options if you are not able to pick up:
White Bear Lake Area Schools is offering meal pick-up on MWF at several locations. More information and a request form can be accessed here (scroll down to "Will breakfast and lunch be available?"): https://www.isd624.org/departments/communications/coronavirus-covid-19-updates?fbclid=IwAR1K-EKWrBj06NcWSj6_22UyqX5iLqwidtQUIbDD-kTN_WK1nF9wgDTjOm0.
Mounds View Public Schools is offering meals with curbside pick-up available from
10:00a-1:00p every weekday. Locations and more information if you do not have regular transportation is here (scroll down to "Meals for Students"):
I also would like to be sure that constituents know to contact their school districts if they have any trouble setting up or accessing materials necessary for the newly implemented distance learning curriculum. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
Reminder: Be Counted in the 2020 Census
Today is Census Day! Please take a few minutes to fill out your census form at https://my2020census.gov if you haven’t already done so. Your response will help ensure Minnesota receives our fair share of federal funding for schools, roads and bridges, fire departments, and other services we all rely on.
I look forward to answering your questions and listening to your input during my virtual town hall tomorrow. Thank you for the honor of serving you during these challenging times.