COVID-19 provisions passed

The first COVID-19 response bill the Legislature passed included $6.2 million dollars in special emergency grants for Minnesota’s veterans and their families who are facing financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic. The assistance requires an application and certification of eligibility.

The grants may be used for emergency financial assistance, hospitalization assistance, medical care or treatment, and other financial issues related to the COVID-19 virus.

Both disaster relief grants and special needs grants are available. The Department of Veterans Affairs have received over 4,000 applications for these grants. Grants will be available until the fund is exhausted. More information on the available grants can be found here.

Senate DFLers recognize the difficulties veterans are facing during this pandemic. We encourage those in need to take advantage of these grants, and we will continue to support our state’s veterans and look for innovative ways to offer assistance. (HS 4531)

Provisions not passed

COVID-19 derailed the Veterans’ Committee agenda this session, as it has for most things. The committee opened session by hearing a number of department bills, as well as bills that recognized veterans’ service. Unfortunately, none of these bills made it to the governor’s desk as the pandemic changed the look of session and reset priorities.

The pandemic made the committee press pause on a number of bills that would be a priority in any other session. There was no movement on veterans’ homes or on refilling the 100-bed facility on the Minneapolis campus.

The Veterans Restorative Justice Act, which would recognize that mental health is a factor for many veterans involved in the criminal justice system, did not receive a hearing in the Senate. The bill would establish two pathways for veterans navigating the criminal justice system, focusing on treatment and rehabilitation.  DFLers are committed to recognizing veterans’ service, and that includes the mental health issues that can come with service. Senate DFLers and stakeholders will continue to push for this legislation.

Other initiatives that would reduce costs for veterans also fell victim to the pandemic, such as bills that would allow for free hunting and fishing licenses for disabled veterans as well as a bill that would remove fees for license plates and licensing fees, title fees, driver’s license fee, and other vehicle-related charges for veterans with a 100% service related disability.

The state is facing a deficit going into next year’s session, where legislators will put together a budget for the next biennium. We are committed to serving those who have served our state and country and ensuring that we are offering veterans the services and assistance they have earned and will take that commitment to heart as we start to look at next session.