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Update from Ben Lien, MN House 4A

  • 8 May 2020
  • 2:30 PM
  • 11 May 2020
  • 11:30 PM


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Greetings from the Floor,

On Monday the House passed HF3429 (2020 Elections Bill to give local flexibility to administer elections this year) and HF4415 (to provide pay to hourly and contracted school employees for hours scheduled but not worked because of the coronavirus).  The House voted on HF1507 on Thursday.  This bill contained the following funding and policy provisions to continue Minnesota’s response to COVID-19:

  • $55 million to continue the state small business Emergency Loan Program
    • 0% interest
    • payments deferred for 6 months
  • $27 million for broadband access
    • $17 million is dedicated for schools and telemedicine
  • $100 million for mortgage and rent housing assistance
    • creates a moratorium on foreclosures during the peacetime emergency
    • establishes tenant protections including a prohibition on late fees for 90 days from the governor’s initial peacetime emergency declaration on March 13 and a requirement that landlords must provide 30 days’ written notice for evictions after the peacetime emergency ends (Gov. Walz put a moratorium on evictions during the peacetime emergency through Executive Order [EO] 20-14)
  • $26 million for Personal Care Assistant compensation

I supported this bill to continue assisting Minnesotans through the pandemic.  I can’t think of more important support the state can lend at this time than housing, small business, technology and health care professional resources.  The bill also contained language that federal dollars for COVID-19 will be used for these items to the extent possible. 

The House is scheduled to take up a number of bills tomorrow on the floor.  These are:

  • SF1098: Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act
  • HF331: adding charter schools to the prohibition of tobacco in schools and conforming Minnesota law to federal law for the minimum age to buy tobacco at 21
  • HF4582: onetime increase in Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) payments
  • SF2939: removing criminal background check fees for certain health care professionals; modifying provisions for occupational therapists, social work practice and dentists; allowing retired health care professionals to collect on annuities who go back to work for COVID-19 support
  • HF3126: technical policy changes for the Gambling Control Board
  • SF4091: technical policy changes for the Department of Commerce
  • HF3356: technical changes to the publication of the State Registry
  • HF4044: Revisor’s technical bill to make various corrections to state laws

To submit public comments on any of these bills, please go to: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/covid-19/comment.

Minnesota Management and Budget issued an update to the state’s February budget forecast. Minnesota now faces a projected $2.426 billion negative budget balance for the remainder of the 2020-2021 biennium. This includes the $550 million the Legislature has already appropriated to respond to the coronavirus and a projected $160 million reduction to the Health and Human Services Budget.  The forecast also projects U.S. Gross Domestic Product to drop 5.4% this year, and Minnesota wage and salary growth to drop 5.9%.  This economic slowdown is expected to run until the end of 2021, andis quite a reversal of fortune from just 10 weeks ago.  The good news is that Minnesota’s budget reserves are very healthy. We have $2.349 billion in the reserve account and $350 million in the “rainy day” cash flow account.  On top of this, the state will receive $2.187 billion form the federal government, with just over $1 billion dedicated to specific uses. To read more about the forecast update, please go to: https://mn.gov/mmb/mmbhome/?id=430876

Gov. Walz issued EO 20-51 to allow elective surgeries to resume on May 10.  Facilities continuing these procedures must develop plans to use and preserve Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ventilators, screen all who enter the premises for COIVD-19 symptoms practice social distancing, and inform patients of the risks of contracting the coronavirus.  The governor consulted with hospitals in issuing his initial executive order to put a moratorium on elective surgeries.  The hospitals wanted to be sure they could absorb any influx of coronavirus patients.  Now that the hospital and health care capacity has increased, the hospitals feel comfortable moving forward with these procedures.

The Department of Health (DHS) presented a plan yesterday to provide more support to congregate living organizations.  DHS has been holding weekly calls with these organizations, and yesterday’s press conference announced a five-point plan to keep these facilities safe.  The plan focuses on more testing, more PPE, maintaining adequate staffing levels (including possible activation of the National Guard) and partnerships with local departments of health.  I’ve been talking with the Walz administration and Health Commissioner to prioritize congregate living facilities for testing and PPE supplies, and will continue to do so.  This needs to happen to save lives.   

Lastly, I want to report that KSTP published a story about Minnesotans’ approval of Gov. Walz’s handling of COVID-19 in Minnesota.  82% of those polled said they approve of the governor’s response to the coronavirus.  I think a big part of the reason the governor’s approach has worked is because of individual Minnesotans taking action to follow his guidelines, and protect themselves and their neighbors.  It’s the social distancing, staying home and wearing masks that have allowed Minnesota to lead the country in low infection rates.  Thank you, Gov. Walz, and thank you, Minnesota.

Thank You for the Opportunity to Serve,


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