The Minnesota Senate today passed a major, $331 million emergency funding bill to help Minnesotans and secure critical programs during the COVID-19 crisis. It is the third COVID-19 relief bill passed by the legislature, with previous legislation aimed at providing resources to medical professionals.
The legislation approved today 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.
In addition, the bill creates a COVID-19 Minnesota Fund that will be responsible for COVID-19-related expenditures, which includes legislative oversight to guarantee accountability and integrity of COVID-19 funding.
“People across Minnesota are nervous because of COVID-19, and what it means not just for their health but for their jobs, families, and the programs they rely on,” said Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester). “This anxiety is understandable, and we have a responsibility to provide additional support for these workers and businesses, particularly businesses shuttered by government, that make up the backbone of our economy. This third wave of emergency funding builds on the actions we have already taken to protect Minnesotans from economic hardship and guarantee the programs they rely on will continue to function. These are challenging and uncertain times, but we will make it through this together.”
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 COVID-19 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 COVID-19 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 COVID-19.
- 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 COVID-19.
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.