Earlier this week, we passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, a groundbreaking bill to help thousands of Minnesotans get the insulin they need at a price they can afford. This legislation, which is named after a young man who lost his life because he couldn’t afford insulin, ensures that people in urgent need of insulin can access an emergency 30-day supply at their pharmacy. It also includes measures to help Minnesotans who need long-term assistance. More information is available here.
Additional COVID-19 Response Legislation
We also passed a bill to provide needed flexibility and assistance to Minnesotans during the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation allows local governments to meet remotely, suspends certain deadlines and expiration dates, expands use of telemedicine, gives the Department of Health authority to set up alternative health care facilities, and more. Details are available here.
Legislating from Home Feature
My kids and I were featured on Almanac at the Capitol this week to share a little bit about what it’s like to legislate during a pandemic. Legislators are people too, and we’re all juggling things just like everyone else. You can watch the video clip here.
Unemployment Benefits Update
As I’ve mentioned in previous emails, you can apply for Unemployment Insurance here if your employment has been impacted by COVID-19. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is receiving record numbers of applications, so the agency is asking new applicants to apply on certain days based on the last digit of their social security number. This will help DEED deliver the benefits workers are depending on as quickly and effectively as possible.
As a result of federal legislation, Minnesotans who are eligible for unemployment benefits will now receive an additional $600 per week. If you’re already receiving these benefits, you’ll automatically receive the additional payment for every week you remain eligible. You can read more about these $600 payments here.
If you are self-employed or a contract worker, and were not eligible for Unemployment Insurance previously, benefits will soon be available thanks to the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. DEED is working with the U.S. Labor Department to get this new system up and running so these payments can be made. In the meantime, self-employed and contract workers should follow the steps outlined here to apply for Unemployment Insurance here. The UI system will likely deny your application, but DEED will flag your account and follow up with you when the PUA program is ready. This may seem counterintuitive, but this is what the administration is encouraging people to do at this time.
Energy Assistance Available
Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program (EAP) is stepping up to assist Minnesotans who are struggling. EAP helps renters and homeowners pay for heating costs by providing grants that range from $200 to $1,400 based on household size, income, and fuel cost. Additional funds are available to help people settle past due bills, get emergency fuel deliveries, and have furnaces repaired or replaced.
EAP’s application deadline has been extended to July 1. You can find more information about the program here.
New AmeriCorps Program
The Minnesota AmeriCorps Emergency Response Initiative, a new program that will start in early June, will provide opportunities for 200 people to serve their communities in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Starting in June, these AmeriCorps members will help schools, non-profits, and government agencies address food insecurity, facilitate distance learning, assist older adults, support our health care system, and more. If you know an organization that would benefit from hosting an AmeriCorps member this summer, please encourage them to apply here by April 22.
Be Counted in the 2020 Census
By now, you should’ve received a postcard with instructions on how to be counted in the 2020 Census. If you haven’t responded yet, please take a few minutes to do so here. Your response will help Minnesota receive our fair share of federal funding for schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, and other services we all rely on.
In closing, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in our virtual town hall meetings and encourage community members to contact me if I can be of assistance during this challenging time. You can reach me at email@example.com or 651-296-7153.