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

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Legislative update

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Dear Neighbor,

It’s another week full of news related to COVID-19, starting with Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday extending Minnesota’s Stay at Home order until May 4. 

The governor indicated the extension will push the low end of the peak into the range where we will have enough ventilators and ICU beds in Minnesota to accommodate patients – according to modeling data the governor is using that we have not seen. This is becoming a touchy subject because Minnesotans want to work together to do our part to protect the health of our neighbors.

But, if the governor is making decisions that impact thousands of businesses and millions of Minnesotans, he should be transparent about it. That means including legislators – who are the ones communicating every day with our constituents and who understand the unique needs of our districts – and being open and transparent about the data driving the decisions. 

In extending his order, the governor also announced flexibility for more businesses to continue operating, including lawn care, landscaping, agricultural equipment repair, garden centers, nurseries and more. It will be helpful that at least some of our workers can get back on the job, but I hear from families and small businesses whose lives have been turned upside-down. legislators have been pushing the administration on a daily basis asking for exemptions, flexibility and common sense. If there are businesses that can protect the safety of employees and customers, let’s allow them to do so.

In other news:

Workers’ compensation expanded

The Minnesota House on Tuesday approved a bill (H.F. 4537) ensuring first responders and health care workers receive their full workers’ compensation benefits and coverage in the event they test positive for COVID-19. The move addresses concerns that damages suffered from the virus would not be covered by the state’s current no-fault workers’ compensation system, a form of insurance that provides salary replacement and medical benefits for workers injured in the course of their jobs. Click here for more details of the bill.

Disaster loans for farmers

The Minnesota Disaster Recovery Loan Program is now accessible to farmers who are suffering financial damages related to the COVID-19 outbreak after the Legislature expanded access to the funds. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture indicates program dollars can be used to “replace livestock or flocks, make building improvements, or cover the loss of revenue. Loan proceeds may also be used to repair or replace septic and water systems, and replace destroyed agricultural buildings.” More can be found at the MDA website, or by calling (651) 201-6666.

Two programs for veterans

On March 26, the Minnesota Legislature created two new programs to assist Veterans who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Disaster Relief Grants and Special Needs Grants both have been activated specifically in response to mitigate the economic effects COVID-19 is having on our veterans and their families. Full information can be found at this link.

New insulin option

A new, low-cost option is available for people who are having trouble affording insulin. Eli Lilly and Company pharmaceuticals has introduced the Lilly Insulin Value Program, allowing anyone with commercial insurance and those without insurance to fill their monthly prescription of Lilly insulin for $35. Lilly indicates in a press release that the program was motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and also says it has no plans for discontinuing the program in the future. Call the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center at (833) 808-1234 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, or click here for more.

Unemployment insurance increase

The Department of Employment and Economic Development announces it has authorized the first payments of the temporary additional compensation of $600/week for people receiving unemployment insurance benefits. DEED indicates no additional steps are necessary for people receiving unemployment to receive the increase; it will take place automatically. The week beginning March 29 is the first week for which you can get the additional $600, with those requests having started April 5. This website has more details on this and other unemployment insurance subjects.

I will be back soon with more developments soon. The House is scheduled to have a session on Tuesday, so we’ll see how that goes and what is taken up. Until next time, have a blessed Easter/Passover and let me know if there’s anything I can do to assist.



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