Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Athena Hollins (DFL)

Back to profile

Legislative Update: February 26, 2021

Friday, February 26, 2021
Hollins header

Dear Neighbors, 

As of February 23, approximately 1,169,470 people have been vaccinated state-wide. While the increase in speed of distribution is heading in a hopeful direction, we need to continue to follow public health guidelines and hold out a little bit longer to ensure the safety of our neighbors. This week, along with a legislative update, I want to provide you with some answers about the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process in Minnesota, and connect you with some resources that may be helpful to you. 

Progress as Lead Author on Legislation

Here are some legislations currently undergoing the legislative process to keep an eye on. We will have more details available soon. 

HF1121: I have recently introduced a bill that will be heard on Thursday, March 4th, in the House Public Safety committee to eliminate some specific requirements for indictments or complaints on sex offenses. It's important that we lift barriers preventing justice to be served for sexual assault survivors.

HF1289: We had a informational hearing on myIntervenor Compensation bill, which would make it easier for non-profits and advocacy groups to be heard by the Public Utilities Commission. This is an important step in leveling the playing field between large utility companies and community-oriented organizations that care for our climate.

HF1288: Another bill still in the early stages of the legislative process is House File 1200, which seeks funding for the North End Community Center in St. Paul in the amount of $16,000,000.

Comprehensive Sexual Health Legislation

Last week, the House Preventive Health Policy Division heard testimony on House File 358 which would require the Commissioner of Education to develop and report on a model program for sexual health education. The division advanced the legislation on to the Health Finance and Policy Committee. 

I am a co-author on Rep. Jordan’s new legislation because preventing unintended pregnancies, STI transmissions, and sexual violence relies on how we approach sexual health in our education system. Students state-wide are asking for preventative policies, It’s time we listen and deliver. 

Driver’s Licenses for All Legislation

Last week, the Minnesota House DFL introduced driver's licenses for all legislation, extending the privilege to be legally behind the wheel regardless of immigration status. This bill is about keeping families together, keeping our residents engaged in Minnesota, contributing to the economy, aiding public safety, and enabling the ability to participate in everyday activities like taking your kids to soccer practice or simply picking up groceries. By denying the right to a driver's license we're denying families opportunities, endangering public safety, and criminalizing participation in civic life. 

You can watch the press conference or read the bill here.

Update on Minnesota’s Economic Forecast

Twice each year, near the end of November and February, Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB) produces a forecast of the state’s General Fund revenues and expenditures for current and future bienniums. Based on the announcement from today, there is no longer an anticipated shortfall for 2022-23 fiscal year. The projected positive balance is $1.6 billion due to higher revenue forecast, lower state spending, and an increased balance for the current fiscal year.

At the legislature, we will work to prioritize investments that put people first and create a better quality of life for all Minnesotans.

Plan to Bring More Students Back to Classrooms

As hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases decline and Minnesota makes progress vaccinating educators, Governor Tim Walz announced an update to Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan to allow more middle and high school students to return to the classroom. 

Beginning February 22, all middle and high school students can return to the classroom for hybrid or in-person learning. Governor Walz expects all schools to offer their students some form of in-person learning by March 8.

In addition to the new health and safety protocols, students and families who are learning in person, in a hybrid learning model, or participating in sports and activities are strongly encouraged to receive a COVID-19 test every two weeks. Families can find locations for free COVID testing on the Minnesota Department of Health’s website.

Approximately 30% of school staff are vaccinated, and more are anticipated to receive the vaccine as we safely open our middle and high schools.

The updated Safe Learning Plan is available here as well as the updated Minnesota Department of Health 2020-2021 Planning Guide for Schools.

Vaccine Distribution Process

Right now, federal officials are sending states a very limited supply of vaccine. That is why we have to take a phased approach and give the first doses of vaccine to populations where we can have the greatest impact on health. Those priority populations were identified by the federal government. The graphic below breaks down the logistics of the process in a more visually digestive way. 

distribution

Eligibility for vaccination in Minnesota requires the following qualifications in our current phase:

  • Minnesotan age 65 or older
  • Health care worker 
  • Long-term care resident or staff member 
  • Pre-kindergarten through Adult Basic and Community Education school staff member, or contracted school staff member
  • Child care staff member at a licensed and certified child care center or program

Governor Walz's new vaccine rollout plan suggests that every Minnesotan will receive their dose by this summer. We will make your safety a priority. Here is the timeline:

As Spring approaches we can also see our path out of this Pandemic. Below is the Graphic that details more clearly, which population will get the vaccine and whenIt’s important to note that all Minnesotans by this Summer will be able to have access to get the vaccine. 

vax-timeline

The COVID-19 Vaccine Connector Tool 

Minnesota has just launched a new tool to make reliable vaccine updates and COVID-19 related information reach you faster.  The COVID-19 Vaccine Connectorwill help Minnesotans find out when, where, and how to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

When you become eligible, the Vaccine Connector will:

  • alert you of your eligibility;
  • connect you to resources to schedule a vaccine appointment; and
  • notify you if there are vaccine opportunities in your area.

As Minnesotans become eligible for the vaccine, they will still make appointments directly through a registered vaccinator at this time. You can find vaccination centers near you here. 

However, this Connector is an easy way for Minnesotans to stay updated about their eligibility and find opportunities to get a shot once it’s their turn. For more information about signing up, eligibility, and more, visit: https://mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/connector/

Minnesotans unable to sign up online can have family or friends help them sign up online, or call 833-431-2053 for assistance signing up over the phone.

Vaccine Connector  

Vaccine distribution got off to a slow start throughout the nation, but Minnesota is making improvements every week as we receive more doses from the federal government. A new online vaccine locator map is available to help Minnesotans more easily find and connect with local vaccine providers. This map will grow as the federal government sends Minnesota more doses.

Another helpful resource for information about COVID-19 is https://mn.gov/covid19.

Loosening of COVID-19 Restrictions

Recently, Governor Walz loosened restrictions on businesses. The new Executive Order, which went into effect on February 13, takes steps to further reopen Minnesota’s economy safely, including:

  • Increasing the “not to exceed” capacity in restaurants to 250, while leaving the maximum capacity at 50 percent
  • Increasing indoor entertainment “not to exceed” capacity to 250, while leaving the maximum capacity at 25 percent
  • Increasing private events and celebrations “not to exceed” capacity to 50, while leaving the maximum capacity at 25 percent
  • Increasing gym and pool “not to exceed” capacity to 250, while leaving maximum capacity at 25 percent, and reducing distance requirement to 6 feet.
  • Allowing restaurants to stay open until 11 p.m.

Additionally, the White House recently signed a contract for 200 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses. The speed at which the state can administer shots is tied directly to the supply we receive from the federal government, which will help more Minnesotans get vaccinated. Case counts and positivity rates continue to trend downward, too, so there are many reasons to be optimistic. Still, we can’t take our eye off the ball, especially with new, more contagious variants emerging. Be sure to continue wearing a mask around others, practice social distancing, and get tested if you think you might need one.


maskup  

COVID-19 Testing Remains Critical 

Testing remains a critical part of our strategy combating COVID-19, and there are currently more than 20 testing sites located around the state, all of which offer no-barrier access to testing. Make an appointment here.


Missing Money/Unclaimed Property

As a result of successful legislation in recent years that is now law, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has developed a secure site that allows Minnesotans to check on their unclaimed property. Common types of unclaimed property can include:

  • Dormant bank accounts
  • Uncashed checks
  • Unclaimed wages
  • Insurance claim payments or benefits
  • Stocks or bonds
  • Safe deposit boxes

The Department is responsible for safeguarding the funds until claimed by the rightful owners. Check to see if you have missing money waiting for you here.

 

MNSure Special Enrollment Period 

Minnesota's health insurance marketplace, MNSure, will be open for a special enrollment period, starting February 16 through May 17, 2021. Life events like moving, having a baby, getting married, or turning 26 allows the special enrollment period to occur. Minnesota residents and families deserve access to quality, affordable health care. It’s critical, now more than ever, for everyone to have insurance. Learn about how to enroll here.

Get Involved and Stay In Touch

Public hearings are a great opportunity to learn and participate in the legislative process. All of them are live streamed on one of the House webcast channels, and you can view the agenda and materials that legislators receive on each committee’s webpage. If you can’t catch a hearing live, they’re usually uploaded to House Public Information Service’s YouTube channel later that day. I encourage you to check out the hearing schedule and get involved!  

For any questions you have on the resources available to our community or our work in the Minnesota House, please feel free to contact my legislative assistant Sonia Romero at sonia.romero@house.mn or 651-296-4307. 

In Solidarity, 

 

Athena Hollins

Minnesota State Representative (House District 66B)

Recent News for Rep. Athena Hollins