St. Paul, Minn.— Senator Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley) provided an update this week on how the legislature is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week the Minnesota Senate and House passed legislation appropriating $21 million for Minnesota’s public health response contingency account. The funds will help support disease investigation, provide information to the public, coordinate statewide response activities, and conduct laboratory analysis.
On Friday, Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order declaring a peacetime emergency and urged the House and Senate to quickly put together a response package to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another executive order was issued Sunday authorizing a March 18-27 shutdown of K-12 schools so school officials can make long-term plans for the “continuity of education and essential services.”
In the early hours of March 17, the Senate and House passed an additional $200 million for health care providers in need of support to fight the virus. The bill provides two funding pools:
- $150 million to create a health care response fund in the state treasury, which would be used for grants and accessible to health care providers including hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, nursing facilities, health care facilities, ambulance services, and settings in which assisted living services or health care services are provided; and
- $50 million is allocated to Minnesota’s public health response contingency account, which would allow the money to get to where it’s needed quickly.
“The safety and security of our citizens and health care system is a priority as we navigate through these uncharted and uncertain times,” Sen. Clausen said. “It’s important that we included funding for the Minnesota Department of Health to administer a grant program to establish temporary testing sites because we just don’t know what the scope of the problem is unless we test. Additionally, it was important that these grants could only be accepted under the condition that providers agree not to bill uninsured patients for the cost of screening, testing, or treatment of COVID-19.”
In the meantime, legislative leaders announced their plans to continue working but under strict social distancing guidelines. The Legislature’s Passover/Easter recess will be extended an additional two weeks to help mitigate the spread of the virus and to help reduce the possibility of overwhelming our health care system.
“I view this time to be less of a “recess” than a break from our regular operations to accommodate MDH rules for social distancing, which includes maintaining six feet of open space between people,” Sen. Clausen said. “I continue to remain accessible to constituents for all of your questions and concerns. I’m asking constituents to call or email rather than visit me in the office to protect your health, the health of my staff, and to mitigate the spread of this virus. I believe it is possible to continue our work during this break and to do it safely and responsibly.”
For the latest Senate schedule, check out www.senate.mn
For more information about COVID-19, please go to the Department of Health website. A hotline is available at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903.
“Please reach out to me with your comments and suggestions on this issue or any other concerns I may be able to help you with. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4120—please leave a voicemail and I will follow up shortly—or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”