The Minnesota Legislature overwhelmingly passed a package of provisions on march 26 that are meant to help Minnesotans deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
This measure follows Governor Walz’s “Stay at Home” order given on March 25.
Rep. Kristin Robbins, R-Maple Grove, reported since the COVID 19- outbreak began legislators have been working together and with Governor Walz to respond to it.
“With all the partisanship we’ve seen in Washington D.C., it is a nice reminder that here in Minnesota, legislators can put party differences aside and work for the good of our state and the people we represent,” she said. “Many legislators worked around the clock for the last several days to find language that everyone could agree to. I am proud of the bipartisan work we did, and the overwhelmingly bipartisan support it earned in the final vote.”
Robbins said the bill helps every Minnesotan in some way, and provides assistance in particular to small businesses and their employees, childcare providers, farmers, veterans, and many others.
Key provisions of the $330 million bill include:
A COVID-19 Minnesota Fund:
•$200 million for the Governor to use as needed to fund purchases of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), respirators, test kits and other materials and supplies related to the outbreak. The Governor has wide discretion on how to use this money, but there are limits to the availability of funds to 45 days, ensuring that the legislature will have to re-authorize the funding, with an opportunity to add additional guardrails before the Legislature adjourns in May, Robbins said, noting the Governor initially sought to have the funds available until June 2021.
Additional oversight of this fund will be through the creation of the Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission (LCRC) that will review and approve/disapprove expenditures from the fund.
Robbins said House Republicans repeatedly underscored that it is important to consider how we are going to pay for these emergency measures.
“The state is expected to get $1.2 billion from the federal bill that is being passed in Washignton, D.C., today, so it is likely that most of the money spent in this bill will be covered by federal funds, Robbins said. “Earlier emergency expenditures will not be covered by that bill, however, and it is essential that we focus on how we can reprogram existing spending so we minimize the deficit and resulting spending cuts we are likely to face next year.”
The bill provides assistance for family and center-based child care providers who are serving emergency and medical personnel and anyone working in a “critical” sector of the economy.
There are disqualifications for fraudulent providers and anti-fraud measures.
Support for Small Business:
The bill creates a Small Business Loan Guarantee Program. By providing a state-backed loan guarantee of 80 percent, this funding will encourage lenders to make loans to small businesses hurt by COVID-19. These loans can go to business with up to 250 employees and have a maximum cap of $200,000.
The bill also codified the Governor’s Small Business Emergency Loan Program executive order, appropriating the $30 million the Governor had already announced. These zero-interest loans range from $2500-$35,000 and are 50% forgivable after two years.
Support for Veterans: $6.2 million to ensure that veterans and surviving spouses are able to receive financial support if they experience hardship during COVID-19. These funds can be used for housing and medical hardship.
Support for Farmers: Expanded disaster recovery programs for farmers in the RFA to include COVID-19. This will allow farmers access to critical resources if they experience hardship as they begin the planting season.