State and Federal Legislative Update: March 31, 2020

State Legislative Update

House Rules committee scheduled to meet remotely Wednesday

The Minnesota House of Representatives Rules and Legislative Administration Committee will hold a remote hearing on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at 2:30 pm. This committee meeting will be audio only, but the House is working to implement video committee meetings in the future. The Rules and Legislative Administration Committee will present an overview of the remote committee process, and is also expected to approve HR policy changes related to COVID-19. You may find a complete agenda HERE.

Walz signs $330 million COVID-19 response package

On Saturday, Governor Tim Walz signed the bill that allocates $330 million in COVID-19 aid in Minnesota, bringing the state’s total response to more than $550 million to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. As a reminder, the Legislature passed the bill last Thursday, March 26.

“The swift, bipartisan passage of this bill is One Minnesota in action,” said Governor Walz. “Legislators put aside politics to fight the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of Minnesotans. We’re only in the early stages of Minnesota’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, but this law will help ensure we have the right supports in place to prepare for what’s to come.”

“I am proud to live in a state that puts aside politics to do what’s right for our people,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “By bolstering our food systems, supporting our child care providers, and aiding our tribal nations, veterans, and those experiencing homelessness, this law will help care for our most vulnerable in the face of this unprecedented crisis.”

House File 4531 includes the following actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help Minnesotans:

  • Establishes the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund to support further action
  • Creates peacetime emergency child care grants
  • Provides COVID-19 assistance for veterans
  • Supports food shelves and food banks
  • Expands resources for emergency services and homeless shelters
  • Expands support available to small businesses
  • Extends disaster assistance for farmers to include losses due to COVID-19

As a reminder, the bill also addresses work study, loans and the State Grant program for students. Specifically, the bill aligns State and Federal Work Study guidelines to allow payments of State Work Study funds to students during declared disasters or a Peacetime Declaration/State of Emergency, in alignment with the federal program rules; temporarily suspends SELF Loans to be able to provide flexibility to administer the loan program to meet the needs of students, borrowers and cosigners; and includes language that covers the State Grant, Teacher Candidate Grants, Grants for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Childcare Grants, MN Reconnect, Safety Officers Grant, and Indian Scholarships, holding students harmless in the case of falling below a certain enrollment level.

Further information will be made available as implementation of this language is worked through.

Chancellor provides update on WCCO Radio

On WCCO Radio this morning, The Morning News with Dave Lee, Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra spoke about how the Minnesota State colleges and universities are educating students during these unprecedented times. Malhotra attributed 90 percent of courses now being online to the incredible work of faculty and staff. He also reiterated Minnesota State’s two priorities through this time, which is the health, safety, and welfare of faculty, staff, and students; and enabling students to complete the spring semester and progress toward their educational goals. Malhotra said the colleges and universities are trying everything to help the students get to the finish line.

Chancellor Malhotra said he is humbled by the work of everyone involved, including the presidents, faculty, staff, student associations and faculty union leaders. He said everyone has come together to do right by students and prepare them to move forward.

The link to the interview on WCCO Radio can be found HERE.

Federal Legislative Update

House Democrats discussing fourth bill

House Democrats are talking about a fourth coronavirus response package that they hope will include more direct payments to individuals, money for state and local governments, and funding for infrastructure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said if such measures aren’t covered, the economic situation could get even more dangerous for Americans, even with the recently passed $2.2 trillion relief bill.

House Democratic leaders said the next coronavirus-relief bill will carry provisions to bolster the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) ability to protect health care workers. “Workers are risking their lives on the front line of this fight and need stronger OSHA protections to keep them safe,” said Speaker Pelosi on the House floor last Friday.

The $2 trillion stimulus package, which President Trump signed into law on Friday, splits $15 million among OSHA and other agencies under the Department of Labor through fiscal year 2022. Congressional Democrats argue that more measures are needed to improve worker safety during the outbreak.

It is not immediately clear when either chamber will be able to start the work on a fourth coronavirus-response package. Both the House and Senate are currently set for Easter recesses continuing through April 20.

Similar to the recently passed state legislation, the implementation of the federal phase three stimulus package is being worked through. As official details become known, we will share them.

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