I hope you are all able to stay warm and safe during this extreme weather. Help is available with utility bills, to repair or replace homeowners’ malfunctioning furnaces, and to purchase fuel for delivery in emergencies through Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program (EAP). Homeowners and renters with young children, people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those experiencing unemployment or financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic are especially encouraged to apply.
Thousands of Minnesotans were helped last year, and new applicants have until May 31, 2021 to apply. Funding is limited and administered on a first-come, first-served basis. Additionally, the state’s Cold Weather Rule is in effect until April 15 which prevents utility shut offs if you sign up for a payment plan with your energy provider. More information on these protections is available from the Public Utilities Commission
I’m looking forward to the slight warm-up next week!
This week, the Health Finance and Policy Committee gave unanimous support to HF 660, also known as the Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act. We heard compelling testimony on addressing the unacceptable disparities in maternal health and morbidity. In Minnesota, Black women are two to three times more likely to die and Native American women are more than four times likely to die of causes related to pregnancy and birth. Bill author, Rep. Ruth Richardson said, “A majority of these deaths, over 60% of them, are preventable.” You can watch the committee here.
The committee also heard an impressive list of experts on the overwhelming evidence of mask effectiveness (HF 604) to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Most Minnesotans have adopted the healthy habit of wearing a mask in public and, thankfully, cases are down.
I am pleased that the Clean Energy First measure, HF 10, is heading to the House floor. I am also an author of HF 802, which would move us to 90% clean energy by 2035. It also addresses cutting emissions and creating job opportunities in environmental justice communities.
Save the Date – Town Hall March 16
I hope you will be able to join Rep. Kotyza-Witthuhn, Sen. Cwodzinski, and me for a virtual town hall on Tuesday, March. 16. We will release more details as the date nears.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
COVID-19 case numbers and positivity rates are trending downward in Minnesota. The vaccination process is improving as well. The federal government is gradually increasing the supply of doses, and the state is adapting the process to ensure that the vaccines we receive are distributed more effectively and equitably. More information is available on the state’s Vaccine Data Dashboard.
Health care workers and long-term care residents and staff will continue receiving the vaccine through their workplace, care facility, or local public health department. Educators, school staff, and child care workers will receive information from their employers. Minnesotans who are 65 or older can use this tool to find nearby vaccine providers and make an appointment.
Black History Month
February is Black History Month. While there has been some progress made in the fight for racial equity, there is more work ahead. COVID-19 has exposed existing racial disparities in our state that we can only address through bold legislation. To learn more about legislative action on this important issue, read the House Select Committee on Racial Justice’s report. Please also read the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus’ statement on Black History Month.
A reminder that spring is just a few weeks away!
Everyone can work to reduce the spread of COVID-19
- Wear masks when in public. 10-50% of virus carriers are asymptomatic (are not experiencing any symptoms). Wearing masks helps control the virus and has been shown to lessen COVID-19 spread.
- Avoid enclosed spaces with groups of people, where the virus can linger in the air for long periods of time.
- Get tested if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.
- Stay six feet away from others.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or sleeve, or a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands afterwards.
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom or before eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your face – especially your eyes, nose, and mouth – with unwashed hands.
- Up-to-date guidance is available from the Department of Health.
Stay connected with the legislature
The Minnesota House will continue to operate remotely, as they did throughout most of 2020. The House will ensure openness and transparency for the public by expanding the number of simultaneous committees it can webcast live?from a maximum of two to five, so you can stay current on issues moving through committees this budget session.
Also, the Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services offers nonpartisan recaps of high-profile bills, committee hearings, and floor sessions with their Session Daily publication. Subscribe to receive these here. To track bills of interest through the legislative process, I encourage you to utilize the MyBills feature on the Minnesota House of Representatives’ website here.
Please continue to reach out with any input, ideas, or feedback about the issues important to you. I value hearing from you, so please don’t hesitate to call or email me any time. You can also connect with me on Facebook here. It’s an honor to represent you at the State Capitol.