Dan Sparks: More help in the fight against COVID-19
Senate Report by Dan Sparks
Minnesotans are facing one of our greatest challenges in generations as we work to combat the spread of COVID-19. On one front, we are doing everything in our power to strengthen our public health care systems and support our frontline health care workers. On another, we are taking every step possible to provide economic security and stability for the thousands of Minnesotans who are currently facing uncertainty due to the reduction or closure of businesses.
My heart goes out to everyone who is struggling during this time, and I give you my commitment that we will do everything we can to help. Please reach out to my office if you have any questions and we will do whatever we can to connect people to resources and help.
The Legislature took additional steps this week to provide support. We passed a $331 million relief package addressing some urgent needs and concerns to help vulnerable Minnesotans and to provide more support for our first responders who are on the frontline of this crisis. Of that funding, $200 million will go to a newly created COVID-19 Minnesota Relief Fund, which will allow the Commissioner of Management and Budget to act quickly in directing funds to areas of need.
As the ranking minority caucus member on the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, I also worked with my colleagues in the House and Senate to address licensing issues facing thousands of Minnesotans and businesses. These are extraordinary times, and these measures will help ease the uncertainty facing many small business owners and independent contractors. We also know that additional steps will be necessary going forward, and we have more work to do at the state to help Minnesotans.
Throughout this crisis, Gov. Tim Walz has shown strong leadership in Minnesota’s response. His latest executive order, which directs Minnesotans to stay at home effective at midnight on Friday until 5 p.m. April 10, is a necessary step in slowing the spread of this virus and protecting our community. It’s important to note that during this time Minnesotans are still able to leave their home for essential activities such as buying groceries, exercising outdoors and picking up prescriptions. So far, our state has been fortunate and has not faced as much pressure on our system as other states, but we also know this virus will continue to spread. We must work together and make sacrifices during this time to help our most vulnerable community members.
During this time, it’s important to know that there are resources available to Minnesotans.
A full list of the executive orders Gov. Walz has issued are available here: https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp/.
If you have had your hours cut back or lost your job, please consider applying for unemployment insurance here: https://www.uimn.org/applicants/needtoknow/news-updates/covid-19.jsp.
If you are a small business owner, emergency loans have been set up to help, which you can apply for here: https://mn.gov/deed/business/financing-business/deed-programs/peacetime/.
MNsure has also opened a special enrollment period that runs March 23 through April 21. More information is available here: https://www.mnsure.org/stay-informed/covid-19-info/index.jsp.
The most important thing each one of us should be doing is following the guidelines from the Department of Health. This page has the most up-to-date information available on what steps you should be taking: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html.
In times of crisis, Minnesotans have shown that above all else, we take care of and help one another. Now more than ever, we need to come together and support each other as we face this unprecedented challenge.
Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, represents District 27, which includes all or portions of Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Mower and Steele counties in the southeastern part of the state.