Minnesota Legislature takes additional action on COVID-19

Betsy Hammer
Apr 01, 2020

Minnesotans are collectively facing an unprecedented global pandemic and a statewide stay-in-place order to help stem the spread of COVID-19. The Minnesota Legislature approved additional health and economic supports last week, including expanded access to health care, financial loans for small businesses, and emergency funding for child care providers.  

The Minnesota House and Senate passed a  $331 million package of COVID-19 relief measures on March 26. Small business owners, child care providers, and many everyday Minnesotans will benefit from the measures. While the final package contained many of Governor Tim Walz’s revised supplemental budget recommendations rolled out earlier in the week, some proposals that would have been extremely meaningful to struggling Minnesotans were left behind. This legislative package is in addition to emergency response legislation passed earlier in March and many executive orders.  

The new legislation includes: 

  • $40 million to DEED for the Small Business Loan Guarantee Program and the Small Business Emergency Loan Program,  

  • $30 million for emergency child care grants,  

  • $9 million in funding for the Minnesota Food Shelf Program,  

  • $6.2 million for military veterans,  

  • $32 million in emergency assistance for housing insecure and homeless populations, including for additional housing support, shelter space, hygiene and cleanliness, and increased staffing, 

  • $11 million for tribal nations to pay for COVID-19 emergency response,  

  • funding for faster Real ID implementation and processing, and  

  • A $200 million COVID-19 peacetime emergency fund managed by Minnesota Management and Budget to support the state’s response to COVID-19.  

The bill also includes some policy changes that will make it easier for Minnesotans to stay put for the duration of the stay-at-home order, which is currently set at least through April 10. The list of adjustments is lengthy and includes lifting limits on prescriptions that had previously been dispensed in a time-limited manner, making it easier to apply for a REAL ID-compliant license, extending expiration dates for driver’s licenses and other types of state-issued licenses, and more.  

While this legislation (House File 4531) includes many elements to strengthen Minnesota’s response to COVID-19, some essential pieces were left out – particularly related to low-income Minnesotans. Walz recommended additional funding for rental assistance, a one-time $500 emergency payment for families participating in MFIP (Minnesota Family Investment Program), and funding to ensure that the Department of Human Services has the flexibility and funding to continue providing and accessing critical services, as outlined in a recent executive order. None of these were included in the bill passed last week. Ensuring that Minnesotans trying to get by with lower incomes can stay safe in their homes and have funds to buy household needs is essential; these items are unfinished business and must be a priority for legislative action in the very near future.  

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis. While we appreciate that Minnesota legislators and the Walz administration have taken significant rapid action, our state’s response must include all of our Minnesota neighbors.