Peggy Bennett: Still working for you amid COVID-19 pandemic
Capitol Comments by Peggy Bennett
The spread of COVID-19 has caused unprecedented changes in our communities and around the world, and it has now altered our work at the state Capitol.
The House formally will remain in session as the state addresses the pressing public health issue surrounding COVID-19, but going forward meetings and floor sessions will only be taking place on an on-call basis until April 14. Here’s where things stand.
On March 17, lawmakers passed a $200 million COVID-19 emergency funding bill that ensures our hospitals, health care providers, and our state, count, and local health care agencies have the funds they need to respond to this global pandemic. The bill includes protections for taxpayers including legislative oversight, penalties for unauthorized use of funds, stringent reporting requirements, and any funds not used will cancel back to the general fund in February.
On March 16, Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order to ensure workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have full access to unemployment benefits. According to the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program, the executive order makes applicants eligible for unemployment insurance benefits if:
• A healthcare professional or health authority recommended or ordered them to avoid contact with others.
• They have been ordered not to come to their workplace due to an outbreak of a communicable disease.
• They have received notification from a school district, day care or other child care provider that either classes are canceled or the applicant’s ordinary child care is unavailable, provided that the applicant made reasonable effort to obtain other child care and requested time off or other accommodation from the employer and no reasonable accommodation was available.
The executive order also eliminates the one-week waiting period to ensure applicants have access to unemployment benefits as quickly as possible and assures business owners that benefits paid as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will not increase their future unemployment tax rate.
If your employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the department urges you to apply for unemployment benefits online. Visit the Unemployment Insurance Program website at www.uimn.org to learn more.
There are a number of website links and phone numbers I want to pass along so you can receive timely, and accurate information as it relates to COVID-19.
• The Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 page is: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html
• The Center for Disease Control’s COVID-19 webpage is: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
• The Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 page is: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/symptoms-causes/syc-20479963
Schools and day care
The Minnesota Department of Health has a hotline available related to schools and/or child care. Call 651-297-1304 for more information.
Do you have questions about your school district’s COVID-19 response? Visit the following:
• Albert Lea: https://www.alschools.org/
• Alden-Conger: https://www.alden-conger.org/
• Blooming Prairie: https://www.blossoms.k12.mn.us/
• Glenville-Emmons: https://www.geschools.com/
• Hayfield: http://hayfield.k12.mn.us/
• N.R.H.E.G.: https://www.nrheg.k12.mn.us/pages/NRHEG
• United South Central: https://www.unitedsouthcentral.org/
Though meetings and floor sessions will be limited over the next few weeks, residents should know that I remain available to answer any legislative questions they have. I am still working for you and want to hear from you. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-8216.
I also want to let our small business owners know that we understand that some of the governor’s executive orders directly impact their livelihood, as well as the good people they employ. Small business owners are the backbone of our rural communities, and I want our local employers to know that talks remain ongoing as to how the state can best assist them during this time of crisis.
Finally, I’m hopeful residents are doing their best to stay calm as COVID-19 dominates the headlines. It is a serious issue to be sure, but if we all use some common sense it will hopefully be a short-term issue, as well. Look after your neighbors in need, take care of yourselves and don’t let fear rule the day! I pray for your good health and look forward to hearing from you soon.
State Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, represents Minnesota House District 27A, which includes almost all of Freeborn County, along with parts of Faribault, Mower, Steele and Dodge counties. She can be reached by phone at 651-296-8216 or by email at rep. email@example.com.