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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Sondra Erickson (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Sondra Erickson

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Yesterday, Governor Walz announced two executive orders. One was aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, the other was to ensure folks that experience economic hardship as a result of government-ordered closures are eligible to receive unemployment insurance.

Although these kinds of temporary orders are necessary to control the spread of COVID-19, I think the governor could have been more creative in regards to our businesses in rural Minnesota because we are different from the Twin Cities. Many of our Mom and Pop shops and other kinds of restaurants will not easily be able to up and change overnight to take-out or delivery services.

Below is a summary of the orders:

Restaurant, Bar, and Other Places of Public Accommodation Closed Declaration

On March 16, Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order closing all restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms, and other similar spaces. Grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and others will remain open. Delivery and curbside pickup for restaurants will remain available.

  • Beginning March 17 at 5:00 PM, continuing until March 27, at 5:00 PM, these facilities cannot have food or drink consumed, or otherwise be occupied for on-premise consumption.
  • Food and Beverage service venues are encouraged to offer delivery, take out, window, walk or drive-up service. Five members of the public are allowed on-premises to pick up their orders if they are six feet apart while picking up their orders.

Because of Governor Walz’s declaration of Peacetime Emergency under Minnesota State Statute Chapter 12.32, these orders and rules issued by the governor have the power of law. This step by Governor Walz was both dramatic and in line with steps being taken by other governors across the country. 

This is a difficult decision but is aimed at “flattening the curve” of the outbreak in hopes of averting the situation we’ve seen in countries like Italy where health systems have been overwhelmed. 

If you or a loved one has lost their job or had their hours reduced as a result of these closings, please encourage them to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. You can find more information at www.uimn.org.

Options for those Impacted by Executive Order

Governor Walz issued another order to ensure workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have full access to unemployment benefits. According to the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program, the executive order makes applicants eligible for unemployment insurance benefits if:

  • A healthcare professional or health authority recommended or ordered them to avoid contact with others.
  • They have been ordered not to come to their workplace due to an outbreak of a communicable disease.
  • They have received notification from a school district, daycare, or other childcare provider that either classes are canceled or the applicant’s ordinary childcare is unavailable, provided that the applicant made reasonable effort to obtain other childcare and requested time off or other accommodation from the employer and no reasonable accommodation was available.

The executive order also eliminates the one week waiting period to ensure applicants have access to unemployment benefits as quickly as possible and assures business owners that benefits paid as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will not increase their future unemployment tax rate.

If your employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the department urges you to apply for unemployment benefits online. Visit the Unemployment Insurance Program website at www.uimn.org to learn more. 

Staying in Touch

I remain committed to ensuring our community is represented during this uncertain time. Please continue to reach out to me with any questions or concerns. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-6746 or via email at rep.sondra.erickson@house.mn.

Be well,

Sondra

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