It has been another week full of fielding a vast array of questions related to the changes in our day-to-day lives caused by COVID-19.
The week started with our schools turning to distance learning, creating a whole new set of challenges as our children begin learning from home. The on-the-fly coordination that has taken place to get this system up and running is impressive and, after some technical glitches on Monday, it appears things have been working more smoothly the last few days.
There are a lot of different ways to look at this scenario and, yes, many of us are entering challenging, uncharted waters as we work to facilitate our children’s education from home. One silver lining from an educational perspective is that schools have asked over the years for more local control, innovation and project-based learning – with less focus on seat time and greater emphasis on measuring the outputs instead of being bound by inputs. In that light, here is our chance to shine, an opportunity to see what is possible. This isn’t a pilot project, rather our new reality for the near future so let’s make the best of it!
In other news this week, here are some notebook items:
Business program guide
I continue receiving questions from small-business owners who need help and advice during the COVID-19 outbreak. Here is a guide from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development with good information about what’s available at the state and federal levels.
This outbreak is coming with great consequences for workers and business owners. If you have issues with your unemployment insurance application, or questions about whether your business is eligible for a program, please contact DEED using the resources available on their website for the fastest and most accurate answers. You can visit this website to learn more about the Unemployment Insurance Program. For questions about whether you qualify for UI, how to apply and the process, please visit here. In addition, programs passed by the federal government may not yet be available — please keep checking the federal program websites for updates.
Wednesday was Census Day and I encourage you to complete the Census soon, if you haven’t already done so.
You can respond online now at www.my2020Census.gov or call 844-330-2020. The Census Bureau also will mail a paper questionnaire to households in mid-April that have not responded online or by phone.
Your responses matter and the data collected will help determine where billions in federal funds are spent and how our representation in government is allocated. For example, the results will inform how dollars are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. State officials indicate that, here in Minnesota, we receive more than $15.5 billion each year on the basis of the census count.
Visit these links for more information:
Gun stores are open
Gun control groups have been using the COVID-19 pandemic to try to close gun stores and prevent citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights and protecting their families. Fortunately, legislation House Republicans led to enactment in 2015 stipulates gun stores can remain open, and government is prohibited from seizing guns during a state of emergency.
It is highly concerning that Gov. Tim Walz is allowing abortions to continue despite issuing Executive Order 20-09 to postpone all elective surgeries and procedures statewide as we fight COVID-19. I joined fellow House Republicans in sending a letter to the governor to address this issue. All we are asking is for the governor apply his executive order consistently. We can’t, on one hand, force procedures to be delayed for cancer patients, for example, potentially causing added discomfort and declining health, while it’s all systems go over at the abortion clinics. Furthermore, health care resources such as personal protective equipment are in precious demand. Our doctors and nurses who are leading the fight against COVID-19 should be our top priority to receive them.
Ag. Workers and COVID-19
Planting season is soon upon us and I am watching closely to see what impacts COVID-19 has on the agriculture industry. We have a relatively brief window to get our planting done and need to do our best to make sure our chain of various supplies and services are intact so farmers can keep doing their work to provide the rest of us with food. Here is a Preparing for sick agricultural workers and COVID-19 document from the Minnesota Department of Health. And, since we all know farmers already were going through tough times before the COVID-19 outbreak, here is a link with information from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture regarding resources for coping with farm and rural stress.
Stay tuned for more as this COVID-19 situation develops. The Legislature continues working from home on an on-call basis s after returning to the Capitol for one day last week in order to discuss a bill we ultimately approved with measures to help fight this outbreak.