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

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Legislative update

Friday, May 8, 2020

Dear Neighbor,

Hope all is well and I just want to pass along some of this week’s legislative headlines. But, first, I want to send weekend wishes for a happy Mother’s Day and good luck in the fishing opener.

We are heading into the last 10 days of the 2020 legislative session and, while there is a lot of unfinished business, exactly how things shake out remains to be seen. I continue working on bills I have authored or co-authored, including bipartisan legislation (HF 4607) to provide Living At Home Network grant funding. LAHN is a network of 35 independent, community-based programs that serves seniors and caregivers in Minnesota. This includes Foley Area CARE, which is doing great work to help local seniors remain at home, especially during these turbulent times.

In other legislative news this week:

Economic update

Minnesota Management and Budget on Tuesday released an interim budget projection showing the state faces a nearly $2.43 billion deficit for the remainder of the current biennium, which ends June 30, 2021. It’s the first time the number is in the red since the Great Recession.

The new number represents a nearly $4 billon change from what was projected just a couple of months ago. The full forecast released in February projected a $1.5 billion budget surplus. Because the next forecast is not scheduled until November, this projection has limited updated estimates of expected revenues and expenses. It also reflects appropriations enacted this session.

These numbers show the state is suffering financial difficulties right along with families and businesses throughout Minnesota. When businesses are not taking in earnings and people are seeing their income reduced or eliminated, it translates to a reduction in state revenue. That is a major reason the governor should start working with the legislature to help create a path forward to safely re-open our economy and make tough decisions regarding state spending given the realities we face.

And, to echo something I wrote about in last week’s email, it is an injustice that our smaller retailers continue being subject to restrictions the big-box stores are not being forced to follow. This issue was addressed and reported on this week. An MPR article posted on Wednesday included this note: 

“Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, said Minnesota patterned its essential-business plan after national models. He acknowledged that the concerns of small businesses are fair. He did not say when they will be allowed to welcome customers inside.”

It’s good to see the agency is aware of this problem, so how about fixing it by showing the mom-and-pop shops the same trust in safely operating as the big boxes have been enjoying? I have no doubt local businesses would do a great job of protecting customers.

Disaster loans available for ag workers

Agricultural workers are urged to consider expanded U.S. Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans that are now available to help them mitigate damages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SBA announced this week that agricultural businesses are now eligible for SBA’s EIDL and EIDL Advance programs. The SBA’s EIDL portal is open as a result of funding authorized by Congress through the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act. The legislation provided additional funding for farmers and ranchers and certain other agricultural businesses affected by COVID-19.

The SBA indicates it will begin accepting new EIDL applications on a limited basis only, in order to provide unprecedented relief to U.S. agricultural businesses. For agricultural businesses that submitted an EIDL loan application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will move forward and process these applications without the need for re-applying. All other EIDL loan applications that were submitted before the portal stopped accepting new applications on April 15 will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis.

More information is available at this link.

Elective procedures

On Tuesday, the governor announced Executive Order 20-51, which allows hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and clinics – whether veterinary, medical, or dental – to resume many currently delayed procedures. These expanded services may occur once facilities have developed criteria for determining which procedures should proceed during the COVID-19 pandemic and have provided a plan to maintain a safe environment for facility staff, patients, and visitors. House Republicans urged the governor to take this step in a letter dated April 29, so it is good to see him provide at least some relief.

Stay safe, wash your hands and, as always, let me know how I can help. Again, happy Mother’s Day and good luck if you plan to head out for the opener. I see reports that fishing license sales are through the roof this year, so please be patient at the launch.



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