It’s certainly been an eventful week. On Monday, the first COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Minnesota, and the Legislature met for our final special session of the year. We came together to pass legislation that provides critical assistance for workers and small businesses. On Wednesday, Governor Walz signed that legislation into law and introduced updated public health guidelines that will take effect this evening.
Economic Assistance for Working Families and Small Businesses
On Monday night, the Minnesota House and Senate approved a COVID-19 assistance package that will support workers and small businesses impacted by the pandemic. The legislation includes a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits. As a result, more than 100,000 Minnesotans who were on track to lose their benefits on December 26 when funding from the federal CARES Act expires will continue receiving unemployment insurance.
The legislation also provides $88 million of direct financial support to businesses experiencing economic harm due to the pandemic. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops, gyms, and more will be eligible for this aid. In addition, movie theaters and convention centers will receive $14 million worth of grants. Another $114.5 million will be distributed among Minnesota counties to provide grants to other affected businesses.
I know this legislation won’t solve every problem or pay every bill, but it’s a start and will serve as a much-needed lifeline until we receive more federal aid. I hope the federal government will follow our lead and come together to provide additional assistance soon. My colleagues and I will continue doing all we can to help Minnesotans get through this crisis.
Updated Public Health Guidelines
Governor Walz announced the next steps in Minnesota’s fight against COVID-19 earlier this week. Some of the current public health guidelines will remain in effect. Others will be modified, with changes taking effect tonight at 11:59 p.m.:
Additional changes will take effect next month. Youth and adult sports can start practices on January 4. On January 18, elementary schools may choose to begin in-person learning as long as they’re able to implement additional safety measures. More information about the new public health guidelines is available here.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
The first COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Minnesota, bringing hope that this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for emergency use, and the FDA is expected to approve another version from Moderna soon.
Last week, Governor Walz unveiled a COVID-19 vaccination plan which aims to quickly, equitably, and safely deliver a free vaccine to every Minnesotan who wants one, while ensuring we make the most of the initial limited supply. Health care workers and long-term care residents will be the first to receive the vaccine, followed by workers in other essential sectors, seniors, and those who are more likely to become seriously ill if they contract the virus. It will be a few months until the vaccine is available to everyone who wants it. In the meantime, we need to continue wearing masks, keeping our distance, avoiding crowds, and protecting those close to us from the possibility of infection.
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I hope you and your family have a safe, enjoyable holiday season.