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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Hunter Cantrell (DFL)

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Taking Critical Action to Manage COVID-19

Friday, March 27, 2020

Dear Neighbors,

The situation surrounding COVID-19 remains fluid and is changing by the day. Here are some important developments that you may have missed. And remember, please stay home if you can.

House approves funding for emergency COVID-19 bills

Yesterday I voted with my colleagues to approve a package of emergency COVID-19 bills to help protect Minnesotans’ health and economic security. The legislation passed today includes, among other things, $9 million to the Department of Human Services for food security, $26.5 million for the Emergency Service Grants program to provide shelter for Minnesota’s homeless population, $30 million in one-time grants to child care providers, $10 million for small business loans, financial relief for Minnesota’s workers, and the necessary flexibility for state agencies to respond to the pandemic.

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Stay at home executive order

Earlier this week, Governor Walz asked Minnesotans to “buckle it up for a few more weeks” via issuing an executive order that directs us to stay at home and limit travel beyond essential needs. This order takes effect today, March 27 at 11:59 p.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 10.

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Minnesotans may leave their residences only to perform any of the following activities, and while doing so, they should practice social distancing:

  • Health and safety activities, such as obtaining emergency services or medical supplies
  • Outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, running, biking, hunting, or fishing
  • Necessary Supplies and Services, such as getting groceries, gasoline, or carry-out
  • Essential and interstate travel, such as returning to a home from outside this state
  • Care of others, such as caring for a family member, friend, or pet in another household
  • Displacement, such as moving between emergency shelters if you are without a home
  • Relocation to ensure safety, such as relocating to a different location if your home has been unsafe due to domestic violence, sanitation, or essential operations reasons
  • Tribal activities and lands, such as activities by members within the boundaries of their tribal reservation

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Security Agency (CISA) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with some Minnesota-specific additions. This includes, but is not limited to, jobs in:

  • Healthcare and public health
  • Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders
  • Emergency shelters, congregate living facilities, drop-in centers
  • Child care
  • Food and agriculture
  • News media
  • Energy
  • Water and wastewater
  • Critical manufacturing

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The Governor is working hard to protect Minnesotans by buying us precious time to slow the spread of COVID-19. Here is a partial list of what is open and closed during this period.

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Supporting Minnesotans through employment struggles

In the last week, close to 150,000 unemployment applications were received by MN DEED, the largest demographic of applicants were between the ages of 22-29. We are working day and night to make sure all workers, especially young workers, are supported during this pandemic. Whether it is helping to soften the impact of lost wages, assisting renters and homeowners to accord eviction/foreclosure, or securing child care providers and other small businesses; we aren't leaving anyone behind.

If your employment has been affected by COVID-19 you can apply for unemployment insurance here.

Governor Walz signs executive orders to halt evictions

On Monday, Governor Walz signed executive order 20-14 which will halt all evictions during the COVID-19 state of emergency. Evictions are especially devastating at a time like this not only because so many of us are financially insecure, but an increase in unhoused people during a pandemic would greatly worsen the ongoing public health crisis. The order specifies that those of use who are still able to pay rent must do so. This order will provide vital economic security for thousands of Minnesotans.

Ensuring critical services continue for state’s most vulnerable

Governor Walz signed two executive orders late last week that will streamline access to public health programs and ensure the most vulnerable Minnesotans still have access to critical services during the COVID-19 crisis.

Executive Order 20-11 authorizes the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) to seek federal authority to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements for federal programs, including but not limited to the Minnesota Family Investment Program, Medical Assistance, and MinnesotaCare, to ensure these programs continue providing necessary support to Minnesota families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Order 20-12 allows DHS to temporarily issue waivers or modifications to state requirements to ensure that their services can be delivered to Minnesotans safely and without undue delay, protecting vulnerable Minnesotans and those who care for them. DHS provides health care coverage, programs, and services for over 1 million Minnesotans, including groups likely to be significantly impacted by COVID-19 such as older adults, individuals who have disabilities, families with children, and individuals with mental illness.

These orders largely address the issues that would have been covered by the “SF4200” bill which many home health care providers have been writing to us about. We still hope to get these provisions written into law in the near future if the Senate leadership will agree to do what is best for Minnesota.

Special enrollment period for MNsure

The MNsure marketplace has opened emergency special enrollment for uninsured/eligible Minnesotans through April 21st. If you are uninsured or underinsured I encourage you to sign up for MNsure so you can get the treatment you need during the pandemic. Enroll through: MNsure.org.

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Support for Small Businesses

Governor Tim Walz announced that small businesses in Minnesota are now eligible to apply for disaster assistance through the Small Business Administration (SBA) for economic injury during the COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement comes after Governor Tim Walz sent a letter to the Director of the SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance requesting that Minnesota businesses be eligible for this assistance.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing during the pandemic. Small businesses may apply for a loan at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.

In a similar vein Governor Walz signed Executive Order 20-15 to authorize the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to establish a Small Business Emergency Loan program for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. DEED’s emergency loan program will help Minnesota small business owners who need immediate assistance during COVID-19 closures.

On Wednesday, March 18, the state granted a 30-day Sales and Use Tax grace period for businesses identified in Executive Order 20-04. Identified businesses with a monthly Sales and Use Tax payment due March 20, 2020 will have until April 20 to make that payment. These customers should still file their return by March 20. For more information, visit revenue.state.mn.us or call 651-556-300.

How we are continuing to work

Last week the House moved to adjourn until April 14th, but not before we voted to set aside emergency funding for a COVID response. The House and Senate will meet in floor and committee sessions on an on-call basis through April 14. During this time period, the Legislature will only take up legislation on the House and Senate floors by agreement of the House DFL, House GOP, Senate DFL and Senate GOP caucus leaders. While we’re all still working remotely, we’re starting to hold committee-level working group meetings via conference calls and webinars to identify “must pass” legislation with bipartisan and bicameral support. 

Thank you essential workers

I want to thank all the workers who are working to ensure that all Minnesotans daily needs are being met. Many of these jobs aren’t that glamorous, but we rely on them just as much as health care providers and first responders who are also putting themselves in harms way to keep us safe. Thank you all for your dedication and hard work.

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Keep In Touch

This is a difficult time for our country and our state. Please know that I am here to serve you every step of the way

Please contact me anytime with questions, input, or ideas. You can reach me at my facebook page, by phone at 651-296-4212, or by email at  rep.hunter.cantrell@house.mn. Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can provide any assistance!

Sincerely,

Hunter Cantrell

Your Neighbor and State Representative

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