Dear Granite City Neighbors,
Last weekend, we officially adjourned our first special session of 2020. The initial plan was to meet to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the killing of George Floyd resulted in a state-wide and national call for meaningful criminal justice and policing reforms to also be a priority. While there were several successful bills produced from this session, including small business grants, improvements in education policy, increased reimbursement rates for child care providers, and more, frustration remains over important unfinished business.
When it comes down to the safety and wellbeing of Minneotans, our focus must remain on getting the work done, not playing politics. The continued pandemic means that another special session in July remains likely, and though that can only be called by Governor Walz, I will continue to reach across the aisle to enact meaningful policies that will make our community and state healthy and safe.
Assistance for Small Businesses
An early success from last week’s special session was legislation I supported that would provide assistance to some of the smallest businesses in our community impacted by COVID-19. The bill created a $62.5 million fund with grants of up to $10,000. With a focus on businesses with 50 or fewer employees, these grants will provide St. Cloud’s businesses with the assistance they need to weather these difficult times. To be eligible, the business must meet the following requirements:
- Have a permanent physical location in Minnesota,
- Be owned by a permanent resident of Minnesota,
- Be in good standing with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office and the Dept. of Revenue as of March 1, 2020, and
- Demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike previous funds, these grants will be awarded by lottery. Applications are available now through Thursday, July 2. You can find more information and apply here.
I joined the folks at XIDIG TV yesterday to discuss these grants, which you can watch here.
The Minnesota Police Accountability Act
The murder of George Floyd remains fresh in our minds and heavy in our hearts, and we continue to see a call for true justice and reform across the nation. Here in St. Cloud, we’ve seen what heightened tensions and frustrations can lead to, with misinformation around an officer being shot in the hand evolving into a dangerous situation. I am so thankful to Officer Ryan Priebe and the St. Cloud Police Department for their service to our community and for showing remarkable restraint during the incident.
With the spotlight on Minnesota, my colleagues in the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus stepped up and put forward dynamic and comprehensive proposals in the Minnesota Police Accountability Act of 2020.
To be clear, within this act there are no measures that would disband or defund any law enforcement agency, but rather, establish practical and common-sense reforms like banning choke holds, increasing training around mental health and Autism awareness, holding bad actors accountable, and increasing community led public safety. I support our officers and first responders that work hard to protect St. Cloud every day. At the same time, it’s imperative for us to work together to hold bad actors accountable and create a system that more effectively protects all Minnesotans. The main components of the act were:
- Reclaiming Community Oversight
- Putting power into the hands of the people and neighborhoods that police officers are sworn to serve and protect.
- Restoring confidence and trust in the systems that are meant to provide justice for all Minnesotans.
- Re-Imagining Public Safety
- Ending the unacceptable culture that is responsible for the murder of George Floyd and far too many others who look like him.
While we were able to pass this legislation in the House, the Republican-led Senate adjourned without taking up the bill. It’s possible we’ll be back in special session again this summer, and along with discussions on how to properly respond to COVID-19, I will continue to fight for a more fair and just Minnesota.
CARES Act Funds for Our Community
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, our local governments have been at the forefront of ensuring our communities have access to the resources they need. Yesterday’s plan announced by Governor Walz delivers $841 million in federal dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to Minnesota’s counties and cities. The allocation of CARES Act funds is in tandem with our work in the Minnesota Legislature, and I thank the governor for putting forth a proposal that reflects my desire to help our community’s hospitals, businesses, and individuals impacted by the pandemic.”
Once approved by the Legislative Advisory Commission, the Minnesota Department of Revenue will distribute these funds on a rolling basis beginning the week of June 29, 2020. Based on a per capita formula, Stearns County would receive $19.3 million, Benton County would receive $4.9 million, Sherburne County would receive $11.6 million, and the City of St. Cloud would receive $5.1 million. More information on the Coronavirus Relief Fund for Local Governments is available here.
Input on Distance Learning Experience Needed
The Minnesota Department of Education is asking for public input on what school could look like next fall. If you are the parent or guardian of a student, please help us out by taking this survey, which will remain open until June 30.
Our House Education Finance and Education Policy committees are hosting a number of joint informational hearings with feedback from parents, educators, support professionals, and community partners. The next scheduled hearing is June 30 at 9:45am. You can view recorded hearings or tune into the next one live on the MN House Info YouTube channel.
Youth and Adults Summer Sports
Summer sports are incredibly important in St. Cloud, and the Minnesota Department of Health has come up with a COVID-19 guide for youth and adult sports and activities, which you can check out here. As restrictions continued to be loosened during the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains important that we incorporate public health guidelines, especially as other states experience recent spikes in cases.
Minnesota’s COVID-19 Dashboard remains a great source for accurate, updated information, and the new Stay Safe webpage covers the resources available to the public as we work to reopen Minnesota safely.
Please feel free to continue to reach out to me with any questions or comments you have on our work this session, or the work that remains. You can reach me at (651) 296-6612, or email me at email@example.com. I’ll also be posting frequent updates on my Facebook page. I look forward to hearing from you.
Rep. Dan Wolgamo