Early this morning, the Minnesota Legislature unanimously approved a $200 million emergency appropriation to help hospitals and clinics prepare for and respond to the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Walz just signed the bill into law.
As this public health crisis worsens, our hospitals and clinics could become overwhelmed with patients. We want our health care system and workforce to be prepared to respond and take care of Minnesotans who get sick, so lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have taken swift, bipartisan action to ‘flatten the curve.’ We are prepared to take additional actions in the days and weeks ahead.
Hours before the vote on the bill, Gov. Walz issued two new Executive Orders that temporarily pause dining in restaurants and bars (take out, drive-through, delivery, and curbside service are still allowed) and access to other public spaces like theaters, fitness centers, and museums.
I want to acknowledge that this will be an extremely challenging time for a significant portion of Minnesota’s workforce who have multiple jobs in these industries. That’s why the Walz administration is also strengthening Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and ensuring that workers who are not able to work as a result of COVID-19 have benefits available. Specifically, the administration will waive the employer surcharge and allow the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to pay unemployment benefits immediately, providing fast relief to employees who need it. DEED strongly recommends applying for benefits online at www.uimn.org.
Here in Dakota County, officials have declared an emergency in response to COVID-19 and will close all public-facing county services beginning Wednesday, March 18. The closure will be in effect at least through Wednesday, April 1.
The closure includes all library locations, service and license centers, park buildings, and in-person appointments such as for social services and public assistance. Front desk and walk-up services are suspended, and county staff will work with clients to reschedule in-person appointments.
County staff are developing alternative ways to provide services and will update the public as new information becomes available.
Comprehensive information about how new emergency funding for hospitals and clinics can be used:
$150 million is appropriated to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to make grants to eligible providers for costs related to planning for, preparing for, or responding to an outbreak of COVID-19; fund the establishment and operation of temporary sites to provide testing services, to provide treatment beds, or to isolate or quarantine affected individuals, to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19; and administer the grant program.
The bill defines “eligible provider” as an ambulance service; health care provider; health care clinic; pharmacy; health care facility or long-term care facility, including but not limited to a hospital, nursing facility, or setting where assisted living services or health care services are or may be provided; or health system.
Grants may be used for:
As a condition of accepting a grant, the provider must agree not to bill uninsured patients for the cost of COVID-19 screening, testing, or treatment. If a patient is out-of-network, the provider must agree to accept the median network rate as payment in full.
The bill also includes an additional $50 million for the public health response contingency account, and allows MDH, in consultation with hospitals, ambulance services, emergency management, and public health agencies, to make payments from the public health response contingency account to ambulance services, health care clinics, pharmacies, health care facilities and long-term care facilities, including but not limited to hospitals, nursing facilities, and settings at which assisted living services or health care services are or may be provided; and health systems, for costs that are necessary on an emergency basis to plan for, prepare for, or respond to pandemic influenza or a communicable or infectious disease.