Senator Anderson, Senate Republicans respond to pandemic with third funding package

(ST. PAUL, MN) – Senate Republicans passed a third COVID-19 response bill today, allocating an additional $331 million to help Minnesotans withstand the effects of this global pandemic. Today’s action establishes a dedicated COVID-19 Minnesota Fund that will be used by the Walz administration to keep Minnesotans safe during this emergency. The package also includes funding for childcare providers, college students, small businesses, veterans, homeless shelters and food shelves. Previous COVID-19 bills passed by the legislature allocated $221 million in funding for medical needs, bringing the total to $552 million this year to address the Coronavirus pandemic in Minnesota.

“I want to assure Minnesotans we are working together to keep people safe from Coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) said. “There are many ways that state government can act to protect Minnesotan’s lives and their livelihood, and this is just the first step to taking care of the most important needs.”

“Today, we’ve established a dedicated fund for COVID-19. The COVID-19 Minnesota Fund will significantly prepare our state for the Coronavirus pandemic,” said Senate Finance Committee Chair Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center). “We know that we need to be ready for an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and there are significant costs to government agencies to prepare and respond. Over the next eighteen months, we can look back at this fund and be proud that we took the necessary steps to mitigate the spread of the virus by supporting the most immediate needs to state agencies.”

The COVID-19 Minnesota Fund can only be used for expenses incurred during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency as declared by Executive Order 20-01 to maintain operations of government. Examples of increased costs would be additional healthcare and staffing needs in prison facilities, staffing and overtime for direct care and treatment, and resources for activities by the national guard in response to COVID-19, among other expenses incurred by state government.

The bill includes $30 million in Child Care Aware grants during the peacetime emergency. “These grants will make sure our essential employees — educators, health care workers, and emergency responders — have access to childcare during this public health emergency.” said Senator Karin Housley (R-St. Marys Point) chairwoman of the Senate Family Care and Aging Committee. “These are challenging times. The work our childcare providers are doing is critical and they must have the resources they need to respond.” In order to receive a grant, the childcare provider must have a license in good standing or qualify as an emergency provider, must prioritize the children of healthcare and emergency workers, maintain their service during the peacetime emergency, and follow practices that prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Higher learning students have also been impacted by the closures of colleges and universities during the pandemic. “By no fault of their own, students’ lives have been upended from campus closures,” said Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Paul Anderson (R-Plymouth). “This bill means students will receive their work study pay and ensure their financial aid won’t be affected by the efforts to mitigate Coronavirus.” Temporary powers granted in the bill allow the Commissioner of Higher Education to waive rules and statues for work study, SELF loans, and the state grant program to assist students in financial hardship. The bill conforms to changes made at the federal level in response to COVID-19.

With small business across the state closing due to the Stay at Home executive order, the bill makes $10 million available to small businesses in loans. The loan program is intended to provide immediate relief to small businesses and independent contractors access to capital to weather the economic crisis from the coronavirus pandemic.

“When our local businesses were ordered to close down or severely reduce their services to mitigate COVID-19, many small business owners worried they may lose their livelihood in the process,” said Senator Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake), who is chair of the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee. “I want to thank everyone who reached out to share their concerns and make certain that they know how much we appreciate all they do in their communities. These loans are the first step to our economy recovering in the aftermath of Coronavirus.”

Other provisions in the bill relax the REAL ID requirements, which were already presenting a backlog for Minnesotans, extend by one-month the process to appeal your property tax bill, and make temporary unemployment insurance modifications.

There is additional funding for homeless shelters, food shelves, and the State Soldier Assistance Program for veterans who are affected by COVID-19.

Senator Paul Anderson (R-Plymouth) represents Senate District 44, which includes the cities of Plymouth, Minnetonka, and Woodland. He is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Higher Education Finance and Policy and serves on the Taxes and E-12 Education Committees.