HF 4537: Workers Compensation
Tuesday, the Minnesota House of Representatives voted to establish workers compensation benefits for first-responders, during the COVID-19 outbreak. The bill, known as HF 4537, will give benefits to police officers, fire fighters, healthcare workers, childcare workers, and a list of others if they suffer injury due to the contraction of corona virus in the course of their duties. Additionally, if one of these workers passes away due to corona virus, this bill will give benefits to the individual's family.
I voted in favor of HF 4537. We must support the brave men and women who are on the front lines fighting this virus. I was especially concerned for our volunteer fighter fighters, and the recruiting efforts for future volunteers, in our rural communities, as previously, our laws did not cover them. Many individuals are placing their health and safety on the line to help others during this pandemic. Their dedication and fortitude deserve our support and gratitude. This bill should also place at rest the requests by Minneapolis police departments for requests for lists of infected individuals. These requests gave me grave concerns over privacy of health records.
COVID-19: The Latest Information
The COVID-19 pandemic has tested our public health system, our economy, our emotional strength, and our freedoms. Minnesotans have made amazing sacrifices to stop the spread of this virus. Due to the disease itself, as well as, the sacrifices we have been forced to make, Minnesotans are suffering tremendous losses. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has updated its model for the second time since Sunday for predicting the COVID-19 death tolls, with Minnesota's death projections falling from 932 to 456 deaths statewide.
Death projections have been updated in the IHME model to now project 60,415 total deaths in the U.S. The estimate of needed hospital beds was also cut nearly in half to 94,249, with needed ICU beds cut by nearly one-third to under 20,000 for the nation.
The IHME model has been widely cited by the White House and other states, but is not the model referenced by Gov. Walz. Gov. Walz continues to rely on the U of MN model, but has not disclosed his justifications or any of the assumptions and numbers used in the U of MN model. In his last press conference, he did say he expects the U of MN model will be updated soon. This model originally projected 70,000 deaths in MN, or 50,000 deaths in MN if there was a stay at home order.
Below is a link to the University of Washington"s IHME interactive COVID-19 model:
Another piece of good news was Governor Walz reported, Minnesota has a confirmed case rate of roughly 17 cases per 100,000 individuals. This is the lowest confirmed case rate of all 50 states.
Obviously, this is a rapidly developing situation. However, I believe figures such as these show there is hope. In the coming days, Governor Walz has said he will reexamine his “stay-at-home” order. Along with other legislators, I have been asking for the justifications, assumptions, and inputs used in making such drastic executive orders. I believe we deserve to be able to evaluate such information, as well as, to know the purpose for any extensions of his executive order, if the goal is no longer to allow our hospitals to prepare and the numbers are no longer as projected.
Minnesotans want to be able to return to work. Certainly, segments of the economy may be allowed to reopen without jeopardizing the public health. I believe we must do everything we can to get this economy moving and remain smart about our public health.
Dairy Farmer Support
Dairy farmers across Minnesota are attempting to deal with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak. With supply chain disruptions disrupted, Minnesota dairy farmers are having a tough time moving their product and keeping their business going. In Wisconsin, many dairy farmers have already been forced to dump milk due to the economic strife caused by this pandemic.
Minnesota lost 300 dairy farmers last year alone, and the COVID-19 outbreak will only exacerbate the loss of dairy farmers.
Fortunately, dairy farmers are eligible to receive assistance from the state government. The Minnesota Legislature has authorized the use of the Disaster Loan Recovery Program to help farmers impacted by COVID-19. This loan program is administered by the Rural Finance Authority (RFA) of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Specifically, the loans in this program can be used to cover loss of revenue, replacement of farm structures, replacement of livestock, and many other items.
Information for the loan can be found at the following link: https://www.mda.state.mn.us/disasterloan
Coming up Next Week
More Committees are meeting remotely and will be assembling additional legislation when we come back in Session on the 14th of April. It is uncertain what that language will look like or what actions will be taken as the Governor's initial 30 day period closes on April 13th - we think.
Our caucus released this statement before the State of the State address. We remind ourselves often of these ideals, especially as we go forward in this unprecedented time: A Free People in a Pandemic is still a Free People. It is during trying times when our rules, laws and Constitution matter most.
If you visit the Capitol in Saint Paul, please drop by and say hello! If you know a date you will be in town, please call or email my Legislative Assistant, Barbara, and she will get you on the calendar. Her number is 651-297-1307 or firstname.lastname@example.org