As you may have heard, Governor Walz, Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, Hennepin Healthcare, and other health care providers recently unveiled a plan to dramatically ramp up COVID-19 testing. This statewide strategy will allow our state and health care providers to test as many as 20,000 people per day, isolate confirmed cases, and expand public health surveillance tools. Improving our ability to test, trace, and isolate cases is vital to keeping people safe as we start reopening parts of our economy.
Governor Walz also launched a website to help people determine if they should get tested and find a nearby testing location. The new website can be found here.
Distance Learning Extended
Last week, Governor Walz announced that distance learning will continue until the end of the school year. I believe this was the right call, but I know that distance learning has created new challenges for teachers, students, and families. My colleagues and I will continue working with Governor Walz and his team to improve the current system and better support students – especially students of color, students with disabilities, students from low-income families, and others who’ve been hardest hit by the transition to distance learning.
Reopening Businesses Safely
Our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 are working, but we can’t immediately return to the way things were before the pandemic. Simply “flipping a switch” would jeopardize the hard-fought progress we’ve made in the past few weeks. We should think of the process of reopening schools, workplaces, and society as “turning the dials” instead.
Governor Walz and other leaders have developed a plan to safely and gradually reopen the state, starting with industrial and office-based businesses with workers who don’t have direct contact with customers or the public. These workplaces will be allowed to reopen this week if they create a COVID-19 preparedness plan and follow rigorous guidelines. That means 80,000 to 100,000 Minnesotans who can’t work from home will be able to get back to work. More information about this plan is available here.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Available
Unemployment benefits are now available for self-employed workers, independent contractors, and others who aren’t eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance. On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced that they’ve fully implemented the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and begun making payments to eligible workers.
If you’ve already applied for regular unemployment benefits, you don’t need to do anything extra to qualify for PUA. DEED will contact you if you’re eligible for these benefits. If you haven’t applied yet, special instructions for self-employed people and independent contractors are available here. Additional information, including answers to frequently asked questions, can be found here.
Extended Unemployment Benefits
Minnesota was one of the first states in the nation to implement the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which provides a 13-week extension of Unemployment Insurance benefits for eligible workers. If you’ve exhausted or will soon exhaust your unemployment benefits, you can find step-by-step instructions to apply for the extended benefits here or within your online account.
Support Local Restaurants
Restaurants, bars, and other gathering places have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re able to support local businesses, ordering takeout and purchasing gift cards is a great way to help. The Star Tribune has an excellent guide to help people find places that are open for takeout or delivery here.
My colleagues and I recently passed a bill to allow restaurants to sell wine and beer with takeout orders during the pandemic. We’re committed to finding ways to get our economy up and running without putting Minnesotans’ lives at risk, and this was a good first step.
Local Streets Open for Pedestrians
Starting today, the City of Minneapolis will open 11 miles of streets to provide more space for walking and biking. This will help pedestrians maintain social distancing while enjoying time outdoors. You can see the routes and find more information here.
Please contact me if I can provide assistance or help answer any questions. You can reach me at email@example.com or 651-296-5375.