St. Paul, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota Senate and House met in session for the first time since the adoption of an “on-call” posture to pass new measures strengthening Minnesota’s response to the spread of COVID-19. The relief package of $331.5 million was put together to help families, businesses, and state agencies respond to the growing effects of COVID-19 on the state’s economy, as well as implement policy changes necessary to provide economic security and safety for Minnesotans.
Approximately $200 million of the funding will be going to the newly created COVID-19 Minnesota Fund. The money in the fund will be available for the Commissioner of Management and Budget (MMB), who can transfer it to agencies as necessary to protect Minnesotans from the COVID-19 outbreak and to maintain the operations of government during the peacetime emergency. “This was a key request from Gov. Walz to give his agencies the flexibility they needed to deal with the outbreak,” Sen. Frentz said. “This fund could be used to pay for increased health care and staffing costs in prison facilities, staffing and overtime in direct care and treatment facilities, and resources for potential response activities by the Minnesota National Guard.”
Several other critical needs received additional funding in response to the effects of COVID-19. Approximately $2.4 million will go to the Department of Vehicle Services to increase their capacity to process drivers’ licenses. Food shelf programs would receive $9 million, while housing supports would receive $5.5 million. Childcare grants totaling $29.9 million would be available to help providers. Assistance for military veterans would total $6.2 million. Finally, $26.3 million would be available for first responders in the form of Emergency Services Grants.
“This new funding is in addition to the $200 million aid package that was passed last week through the Governor’s Executive Order,” Frentz said. “Under this order, $150 million was appropriated to the Minnesota Department of Health to create temporary testing, treatment, and quarantine sites and to make and administer a grant program for health care providers for costs related to COVID-19. The remaining $50 million will be added to the public health response contingency account. As a reminder, this funding was in addition to the $20.9 million passed earlier this month that can be used for costs relating to planning, preparing, or responding to a pandemic influenza or communicable or infectious disease.”
“It’s important to note that while this new funding provides critical support for areas of need, more work remains to be done,” Sen. Frentz said. “We are continuing to work remotely on legislation to provide additional support for Minnesotans affected by COVID-19. Although these provisions weren’t included in the package passed today, we need to find solutions to secure guaranteed pay for hourly workers in our schools, increase outreach and support for Minnesotans experiencing homelessness, and take other important steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 and respond to its effects.”
Today was the first meeting of the Legislature since the adoption of extraordinary public health measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. Steps were taken to protect legislators and staff by following Minnesota Department of Health guidelines, including staggering the number of members who could be on the floor for each vote. The Legislature has once again moved to an “on-call” posture and is prepared to meet again as further action is needed.
For more information on COVID-19, please go to the Department of Health website. A hotline is available at 651-201-3920 or 800-657-3903.
You can find a situation update for COVID-19 here.