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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Working together, just differently, to overcome COVID-19

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

By Rep. Shane Mekeland

The circumstances we face regarding the COVID-19 outbreak are unlike anything most of us have ever seen and it is crucial to me, as a State Representative, to maintain strong lines of communication with the people we represent.

Public safety is our government’s top responsibility and the steps and procedures that have been put in place, while maybe inconvenient, allow us to uphold that priority.

This includes at the Capitol, where the Legislature remains in session but is conducting meetings and floor sessions taking on an on-call basis until April 14. Alternate means of working will allow the House to respond to the needs of Minnesotans, while also fully complying with Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) guidelines including social distancing, limiting large gatherings, telework, and increased cleaning measures necessitated by COVID-19.

I want to be clear that, even though our daily operations are a bit different for at least the immediate future, I will very much continue working to assist constituents back in District 15B while remaining available to travel to St. Paul to conduct legislative action as necessary. I encourage constituents to reach out to me if there’s anything I can do to help and to take advantage of other resources that are available at the state level.

The Minnesota Department of Health hotlines are available to assist people, including a public line (651) 201-3920 and a line for questions specifically related to schools and/or childcare (651) 297-1304.

The last action the House took before departing St. Paul in the wee hours of March 17 was to unanimously approve additional funding to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This was on top of the appropriation passed the week before to assist the Department of Health and local health agencies, making resources available to hospitals, providers, ambulance services, long-term care facilities, and other entities who will be involved in the response to this outbreak. There are taxpayer protections in the bill including legislative oversight, consequences for unauthorized use of funds, and returning money that goes unspent back to the general fund. 

On another note, COVID-19 is putting a strain on workers and business owners. An executive order was issued to ensure workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have full access to unemployment benefits. 

The order 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 to learn more.

Legislators will continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak as it unfolds, and take additional measures if necessary to maximize our state's ability to respond and care for those who are ill, at-risk, or dealing with the consequences of the widespread school and business closures. 

Thank you to all the health care workers and public safety personnel for all you are doing to help us through this challenge. Also, thank you to our schools for navigating this situation on the fly to keep our children safe.

Minnesota has a proud tradition of coming together during difficult times during floods, natural disasters, and other challenging events. This will be no different and, as always, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. You can call me at (651) 296-2451 or email

Please keep washing your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.


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