Governor Walz signed a comprehensive COVID-19 package (HF 4531) into law last week, which allocates $330 million in aid to help our state care for our most vulnerable in the face of an unprecedented crisis. The Legislature passed the bill with broad bipartisan support on March 26.
Although we are in the early stages of Minnesota’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, this legislation will help ensure we have the right supports in place to prepare for what’s to come.
Of the $330 million, $200 million will go to a COVID-19 fund the state can use to respond quickly to issues related to the virus, with some legislative oversight. Another $30 million will go to childcare for essential workers. If those workers cannot get their children cared for, they cannot fulfill their duties. Another $40 million is earmarked for emergency grants and loans for small businesses to help avoid business closures and cause even more workers to become unemployed.
Additional funds will go to provide financial support to veterans, to keep food shelves open, and to create more shelters for the homeless. There is also funding for tribal nations, which have had to close the casinos that are a primary means of revenue. This assistance will hopefully help people stay home, help businesses survive while they are forced to remain closed and to keep infection rates as low as possible.
It’s important to note, several issues remain unresolved and legislators are continuing their work to address them. One important provision that remains unresolved is workers’ compensation coverage for essential workers who contract the disease. This is important because these are the folks on the front lines of trying to protect us – we should do what we can to protect them.
This funding package is just the first step in responding to the needs of workers, health care providers, and families who are facing unprecedented challenges during the pandemic. We are continuing our work to solve other unresolved issues to protect our citizens, including:
- Paying E12 hourly workers
- Housing and homelessness assistance
- MFIP funding for families at the lowest income levels
- Anti-discrimination measures
- Repayment mechanism to the 21st Century Mineral Fund