We’re working around the clock to address the COVID-19 pandemic and help Minnesotans navigate the challenges it has created. Here’s a brief update on where things stand, including actions already taken by the Governor and the Legislature:
Minnesota Schools Close
Last week, Governor Tim Walz announced the temporary closure of Minnesota K-12 public schools beginning Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, March 27 in order for school administrators and teachers to make -term plans for the continuity of education and essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor’s action requires schools to provide care for elementary-age children of health care professionals, first responders, and other emergency workers to ensure Minnesota’s first line of defense against COVID-19 can stay on the job. It also requires schools to continue providing meals to students in need and ensures the continuity of mental health services.
St. Paul Public Schools began using school bus routes as meal pickup locations on Wednesday. Information about meal pickup, child care, and other resources for St. Paul students and their families is available here.
If you have any questions, you can visit www.education.mn.gov or call a state hotline dedicated to schools and child care at 651-297-1304. The hotline is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Restaurants and Other Venues Close
On Tuesday, the Governor ordered the temporary closure of Minnesota restaurants to dine-in customers. Takeout and delivery services are permitted. Other venues, such as community clubs, fitness centers, and movie theaters, were ordered to close as well. The Governor is encouraging grocery stores and pharmacies to stay open so Minnesotans can still get the items they need.
Support for Impacted Workers
In an effort to support the many Minnesotans affected by these closures, Governor Walz signed an Executive Order to strengthen Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and ensure that workers who aren’t able to work have benefits available. If your employment has been impacted by COVID-19, you can learn more about Unemployment Insurance and apply online at uimn.org.
Additional information for workers and employers is available at www.mn.gov/deed. You can also call a public hotline at 661-259-7114 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Emergency Funding for Hospitals and Clinics
On Monday night, we unanimously passed emergency funding that will help hospitals and clinics respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure Minnesotans can get the care they need. The bill provides $150 million for grants that health care providers can use for costs related to an outbreak of COVID-19. As a condition of accepting a grant, providers must agree not to bill uninsured patients for the cost of COVID-19 screening, testing, or treatment. The bill also includes an additional $50 million for the public health response contingency account, which is used for emergency costs that are necessary to plan for, prepare for, or respond to a pandemic.
Where to Find Information about COVID-19
As I mentioned in my last email, you can find up-to-date and accurate information about COVID-19 at www.health.state.mn.us. Click here to view the website in English, here for Hmong, here for Spanish, and here for Somali. You can also call the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH)’s public hotline at 651-201-3920. The hotline is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
These past few weeks, business has been less than usual. Though COVID-19 has dominated our work at the legislature and dictated who and what can happen at the State Office Building, I wanted to take a moment to thank all those who came by to see me, talk with me, and share their issues with me before the start of the pandemic. From groups advocating for an issue to people fighting for vulnerable community members to people just wanting to be part of the process, I learn something new each and every day, and I grow as a person. My constituents are amazing.
Some of my youngest constituents visited me on Youth Climate Justice Summit Day on the Hill, They didn’t want to just talk about the issues. They also wanted to know what would be done to address those issues.
No one should have to choose between earning a paycheck and taking care of themselves or a family member. These advocates came to the Capitol to fight for Paid Family and Medical Leave.
Olivia and Alejandra, students from St. Kate's and Hamline, shared with me why it’s important to support the Minnesota State Grant program and to increase funds when we met on Minnesota Private College Day on the Hill. As first-generation students, this source of funding is critical for them to be able to attend college.
It was my second year meeting with this fierce group for Homeless Day on the Hill. Representing Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, Heather, Pam, Ivan, Anna, Jan, Mark, and Linda shared their goal of decriminalization of homelessness and why we must reduce barriers to shelters.
Though the day was packed with Committee and constituent meetings, I was thankful there was a few minutes to speak to this group of Head Start parents about why it’s important to advocate. Giving children an early start is so critical to their long-term success. It is incumbent upon us to fight for those who do not yet have a voice.
Don't hesitate to reach out with comments and questions you may have. I hope to be a resource to help us navigate this public health crisis.
Rep. Kaohly Her