The special session ended early Saturday morning. Unfortunately, much of the work that we did was left unfinished. I’m disappointed that leaders were unable to come to an agreement, and that the Minnesota Senate decided to adjourn before we got our work done. I’ll keep working on police and criminal justice reform, support for local governments, and other issues that are important to our community.
Police and Criminal Justice Reform
Minnesotans are calling on us to enact meaningful police and criminal justice reforms. On Friday morning, we passed the Minnesota Police Accountability Act of 2020. This legislation aims to ensure all Minnesotans can feel safe in their communities by preventing harm to the people and neighborhoods that police officers are sworn to serve and protect, holding bad actors who break their oath accountable, and reimagining public safety. I was proud to stand with my colleagues in the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus and Minnesotans across the state in voting in support of this bill. I hope Senate Republicans will join us in supporting this legislation in future legislative sessions.
Assistance for Local Governments
With my support, the House passed a bill that would deliver $841 million in federal funding to Minnesota’s cities, counties, and towns. These funds would help our local governments respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, support small businesses, and continue providing critical services that Minnesotans count on. The legislation also made new investments in the people of Minnesota. It provided funding to temporarily increase wages for personal care assistants who take care of the most vulnerable Minnesotans, ensure rape kits get tested, prevent veteran suicides and homelessness, and more. Unfortunately, this legislation didn’t gain support in the Senate, so these important investments in Minnesota will have to wait.
Moments ago, Governor Walz announced a plan to distribute this federal funding to communities across the state. The funds will be allocated based on the formula legislators developed during the special session. The plan includes $1.9 million for White Bear Lake, $1.1 million for Hugo, $835,000 for White Bear, $399,600 for North Oaks, and $85,100 for Dellwood. Washington County will receive $31.7 million, and Ramsey County has already received funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Governor Walz’s plan also provides $12 million of emergency support for food shelves and food banks to help combat hunger.
Support for Minnesota Children
One notable success from the special session was the progress we made for our youngest Minnesotans. On Tuesday, Governor Walz signed legislation to limit the circumstances under which schools can suspend or expel preschool children. Preschoolers are three times more likely to be suspended than K-12 students, and these dismissals disproportionately impact children of color and students with disabilities. Limiting suspension and expulsions will help address these disparities and keep young Minnesotans in school and learning.
A bill to help child care providers continue caring for Minnesota children was also signed into law. It increases payment rates for the Child Care Assistance Program in compliance with federal law. In addition to assisting low-income families with the cost of child care, this legislation helps our state avoid millions of dollars in penalties and access additional federal resources for child care.
Grants for Small Businesses Now Available
As I mentioned in my last email, we passed legislation to provide grants to small businesses impacted by COVID-19 during the special session. The Minnesota Small Business Relief Grants Program is now open for applications! Businesses with 50 or fewer employees that are owned by a Minnesota resident can receive grants up to $10,000. Applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 2. More information is available here.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is hosting several online webinars to help small business owners apply for Small Business Relief Grants. You can view the schedule and register for a webinar here.
Make Your Voice Heard
Creating an Age Friendly Minnesota
Minnesota has an aging population. This year, seniors outnumbered school-age children for the first time in our state’s history. AARP is seeking input on how our state can do a better job of supporting Minnesotans as we age. Their community survey will inform the work of the Governor’s Council on an Age Friendly Minnesota, which is working to coordinate action across state agencies and make Minnesota a more livable, age friendly state. Minnesotans who are 45 years old or older can take the full survey here. The survey will close on Friday, July 3.
The pandemic and the murder of George Floyd have laid bare the deeply rooted inequalities between our communities and neighbors, and the need for big changes. Now is a time for leaders to come together--regardless of party, race, and place--to ensure the health & economic well-being of Minnesotans and to reimagine and reform how public safety works.
Please contact me anytime with questions, feedback, and ideas. It’s an honor to represent our community at the Minnesota Legislature.