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Legislative Update from Ben Lien Mn House 4A

  • 27 Mar 2020
  • 7:30 PM


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Greetings from the Floor,

Yesterday, the Legislature passed HF4531 to address COVID-19.  The bill had two articles dealing with financial support and policy provisions not tied to appropriations.  The appropriations of Article 1 are as follows:

  • $2.4 million for Driver and Vehicle Services to hire temporary workers
  • $29.9 million for childcare provider grants
  • $6.2 million for direct veteran financial assistance
  • $9 million for food shelf support
  • $5.5 million for housing support for low-income, elderly people and people with disabilities
  • $26.5 million for housing shelters
  • $30 million to fund the Small Business Emergency Loan Program established in Gov. Walz’s Executive Order (EO) 20-15 (these loans are for businesses impacted by the governor’s order to close bars, restaurants and places of public accommodation)
  • $10 million to revive the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program to guarantee up to 80% of traditional private business loans
  • $11 million for grants to tribal governments
  • $200 million for the COVID-19 Fund to ensure citizen safety and the continuation of state government operations

Here is a link to information about the Small Business Emergency Loan Program: https://mn.gov/deed/business/financing-business/deed-programs/peacetime/.  I will be sure to include updates to the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program on my legislative Facebook page as they become available.

Article 2 of the bill included the following policy provisions:

  • modifications to the agricultural Disaster Recovery Loan Program to cover revenue loss related to COVID-19
  • additions to the forms of acceptable identification for obtaining REAL IDs
    • The federal government has delayed implementation of REAL ID to October 2021
  • allowing prescriptions of opiates to be filled for supplies larger than 30 days
  • modifications to the Commissioner of Commerce’s authority to extend business license expiration dates
  • modifications to the Commissioner of Higher Education’s authority for the continuity of work study, the SELF loan, state grant and other student aid programs
  • temporary exemptions from state contract laws so the state can work in an expeditious manner to procure medical supplies from vendors
  • extending the expiration date on driver’s licenses if the existing expiration date would occur during Gov. Walz’s current Peacetime Emergency (this extension is provided until the last day of the second consecutive month after termination of the Peacetime Emergency)
  • extending the property tax appeal deadline from April 30 to May 30
  • exemption of sanitizer or disinfectant applicator licenses for commercial settings
  • one-time exception to allow local governments with uncommitted Minnesota Investment Fund dollars to use the money for loans to retail stores, services providers or hospitality businesses
  • allowing the superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Affairs to delay fingerprint submissions for new employees of Critical Sector businesses as outlined in Gov. Walz’s EO 20-20
  • modifications to the Commissioner of Corrections’ authority to make medical decisions for inmates who lack the capability to make these decisions and transfer inmates to county facilities who have less than 90 days left in their sentences

Today, Gov. Walz issued EOs 20-21, 20-22, 20-23 and 20-24.  Details are as follows:

  • 20-21: adds constitutional officers and their staff to EO 20-07 (leave for executive branch state employees)
  • 20-22: allows the State Auditor to modify deadlines for local government reporting
  • 20-23: gives the state healthcare workforce licensing boards authority to defer and extend continuing education credits and licensure; also prohibits prescriptions for Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine beyond 30 days
  • 20-24: suspends regulations around weight limits and hours of service for motor carriers hauling livestock

On Wednesday, Gov. Walz issued EO 20-20 directing Minnesotans to stay at home.  The order goes into effect from March 27 at 11:59 pm (tonight) until April 10 at 5:00 pm.  The governor also extended the closure of bars, restaurants and other places of public accommodation until May 1 at 5:00 pm.  EO 20-20 can be read here (along with information about the Critical Sectors it references)

I know these orders are causing a lot of frustration for people and businesses.  I have received emails that the order should not be statewide, and instead focused on areas of the state experiencing more widespread outbreaks.  The intent of these orders is to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and avoid overburdening our healthcare facilities.

Although Cass County (North Dakota) reported its first COVID-19 death today, we are not seeing community spreading of the virus right now in Fargo-Moorhead.  I want to keep it that way.  The only way to control the spread of COVID-19 (short of a vaccine) is to severely limit how much contact we have with each other.  Based on what’s happened in other states and other countries, we have no reason to believe we are isolated from the coronavirus.  I don’t want to take a wait and see approach, and then rush to action when cases increase.  It’s likely we haven’t seen more widespread cases of the coronavirus in Fargo-Moorhead because of a lack of testing infrastructure (which is happening nationwide) and people doing the right thing by staying home when they’re sick. Thank you for following the guidance of public health professionals. 

The governor, Legislature and Congress are all working on financial and economic relief for Minnesotans. The economy and consumer sentiment were strong going into this crisis.  The economic recovery will depend on how long the pandemic lasts.  Prematurely going about our normal lives will not help to control transmissions of COVID-19; it would likely have the opposite effect of dragging this public health emergency out longer.  I don’t want to think how far the economy would have to bounce back if more people get sick or die.  These are unprecedented and unnerving times.  We will get through them.  Now is a great time to try our different platforms of technology that allow us to communicate with each other remotely.  Although physical isolation and quarantining are what’s needed right now, we don’t have to cut off communication with each other.  We live in a technological time that affords us new ways to communicate with each other.  Please take advantage of it.  We will get through this, and be better on the other side.  Please follow my legislative Facebook page for updates to the state’s response.  And, as always, please feel welcome to contact me anytime.

Thank You for the Opportunity to Serve,


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