The Minnesota Senate today passed a sweeping coronavirus relief package, the third in a series of bills aimed at protecting Minnesotans and securing critical programs throughout the ongoing pandemic.
The legislation includes loans for farmers and businesses with less than 250 employees, relief for individuals seeking unemployment benefits, childcare assistance, help for low income Minnesotans and veterans, stability for college students, and more.
The bill also creates a COVID-19 Minnesota Fund that will be responsible for COVID-19-related expenditures. This account will include legislative oversight to guarantee coronavirus funding is used with accountability and integrity.
“I know there are countless workers and small business owners out there facing hardship because of this virus,” said Sen. John Jasinski (R-Faribault). “This bill was a good step, but we have to do far, far more, because the resources here will not be nearly enough to help everyone. There will still be countless businesses who are right on the edge of survival, and if we don’t get them more help, they’ll be done for. We have been working well the governor and the House up until this point; I hope we can come back soon and get these small businesses the resources they need to stay alive.”
Notable provisions included in the bill:
- COVID-19 MINNESOTA FUND: The bill creates a COVID-19 Minnesota Fund in the state treasury to pay expenditures related to the peacetime emergency, with legislative oversight for accountability and integrity of the funding.
- UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF: Similar to a recent executive order by Gov. Walz, the legislation makes it easier for workers hurt by the coronavirus to get unemployment, by removing barriers like waiting periods and job-search requirements.
- PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESSES: The bill provides emergency loans for small businesses and loan guarantees for businesses with fewer than 250 employees through the Department of Employment and Economic Development.
- FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN: The bill provides emergency grants to protect childcare access and affordability during the coronavirus peacetime emergency.
- FARMERS: The bill modifies the Rural Finance Authority’s Disaster Recovery Loan program to include infectious diseases, so farmers will have easier access to emergency loans if they are hurt by the coronavirus.
- COLLEGE STUDENTS: The bill protects college students from financial instability by granting the commissioner of higher education authority to guarantee the security of Work Study, SELF loan programs, the State Grant program, and other state grants, aid, and scholarship programs.
- LOW INCOME FAMILIES: The legislation provides additional funding for food shelves to help families affected by the virus get food, toilet paper, diapers, and other critical supplies.
- VETERANS: the bill allocates funding to help veterans and their surviving spouses with lack of childcare, medical bills, loss of work, and numerous other issues due to the coronavirus.
In addition, the bill eases proof of residency requirements for individuals attempting to get a REAL ID, and it extends driver’s license expiration dates for two months after the peacetime emergency period is declared over.