Funding to assist with COVID-19 preparation (3/31/2020)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/31/2020

Good afternoon,
Minnesota lawmakers recently returned to St. Paul to debate more legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LATEST COVID-19 BILL SENT TO GOVERNOR

House lawmakers actually approved this comprehensive bill in timely fashion Thursday and on a strong bipartisan basis. Before we left the Capitol in mid-March, we also approved $221 million in funding to assist with COVID-19 preparation and response. Thursday’s approved legislation continues those efforts.

It’s times like this that Minnesotans expect their lawmakers to come together and work together in a bipartisan manner. This isn’t the time for partisan politics, and I’m glad we were able to meet and pass some COVID-19 related legislation. I expect that will happen another time or two in the coming weeks as we work through this time of uncertainty.

Remember, we are all in this together, and like you I look forward to the time when we return to the “normal” we used to enjoy.

GOVERNOR ISSUES ‘STAY AT HOME’ ORDER

Last week, Governor Walz announced a “Stay at Home” executive order, which will limit movement outside homes beyond essential trips until Friday, April 10.

The governor also extended the current closures for bars, restaurants, and other public accommodations under previous executive orders until May 1 and extended distance learning for schools until May 4.

So how does the stay at home order impact you? I know that a lot of you have questions about what this means for your business and day-to-day lives. I am including a link to the Governor’s full order that explains all the details and provides answers to many of the questions you probably have. Click here to see the full order: https://mnhouse.gop/EO_ShelterInPlace

Here is a link to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development that lists all “critical” businesses that would remain open: https://mn.gov/deed/assets/naics-critical-list_tcm1045-424829.pdf.

And another link with more information on business exemptions:
https://mn.gov/deed/newscenter/covid/business-exemptions/

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments as I am here to help. Contact me anytime at rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn or by phone at 651-296-3135.

Take care,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Update from the State Capitol (3/18/2020)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/18/2020

Hello from St. Paul,

Not all that long ago people were wondering how, or if, coronavirus was going to impact them. Fast forward two weeks and Minnesotans have watched as schools, bars, and restaurants have been forced into temporary closure.

At the State Capitol, things have also changed. Talks of tax relief and a bonding bill have subsided for now; COVID-19 funding and preparation is now front and center. Today I’d like to give you a brief update.

LEGISLATURE ON STANDBY

Officially the House remains in session. In reality, lawmakers are working very differently. Until April 14, committee meetings and floor sessions will only be scheduled when there is agreement between all four legislative leaders. When committee hearings are called, it is important that members of the public are not only informed but allowed to participate publicly and transparently. That said, I want to hear from you on any legislative topic – whether COVID-19 related or anything else. Please contact me any time by email at rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn or by phone at 651-296-3135.

COVID-19 EMERGENCY FUNDING BILL

On March 17, lawmakers unanimously approved $200 million in additional funding to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding adds to the $21 million passed last week to assist the Department of Health and local health agencies, making resources available to hospitals, providers, ambulance services, long-term care facilities, and other entities who will be involved in the response to this outbreak.

There are also taxpayer protections in the bill including legislative oversight, consequences for unauthorized use of funds, and returning money that goes unspent back to the general fund.

Moving forward we’ll continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak as it unfolds, and take additional measures if necessary to maximize our state’s ability to respond and care for those who are ill, at-risk, or dealing with the consequences of the widespread school and business closures.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BENEFITS

Governor Walz has issued an executive order to ensure workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have full access to unemployment benefits. If your employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the Unemployment Insurance Program website at www.uimn.org to learn more about applying for unemployment benefits online, or to seek answers to your questions.

I also want to let our small business owners know that lawmakers continue to discuss ways to best assist you during this crisis. I will keep you updated on any developments.

HELPFUL COVID-19 WEBSITES

The most accurate, up-to-date COVID-19 sites are the Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 page: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html and the Center for Disease Control’s COVID-19 webpage: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

If you want to know how your local school district is handling the COVID-19 response, visit sowashco.org, hastings.k12.mn.us, and stillwaterschools.org.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

Many of the local small businesses that we rely on are going through extremely tough times right now. With the closure of restaurants to dine-in guests, many are relying on take out as their only source of income. If you are in a position to so, please consider ordering from these establishments to help them get through this mandatory change to their business. Also please consider buying gift cards now to help provide cash flow to help them with their fixed expenses.

Another thing we can all do is to be aware of and thank those who are still working for us including trash haulers, medical professionals, first responders and store employees. And let’s not forget daycare providers who remain open to care for the children so they can serve us. In many cases they’ve been asked to alter their way of doing business to accommodate the current normal.

As you buy groceries consider this: dairy cows are producing the same amount of milk but if we buy less dairy products, the supply/demand result could be lower prices in a dairy industry that has already struggled with low commodity prices. So don’t forget to continue buying milk, butter, and maybe a little extra ice cream.

Again, please contact me if you have any questions or concerns, and I will do my best to answer them. And please stay healthy.

Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Emergency funding for the Department of Health (3/12/2020)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/12/2020

Hello from the State Capitol,

The legislature voted unanimously in the House and Senate to approve emergency funding for the Department of Health to continue their response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The bill included protections for taxpayers that would require money to be paid back to the general fund if it goes unspent. The legislature is considering additional steps to ensure our state and health care system can respond as quickly and effectively as possible — Minnesotans should have confidence that legislators, the governor, and state agencies are working closely based on the expert recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

As this situation unfolds, social media could be rife with misinformation so please continue to rely only on information from trusted sources. Though I will keep you posted on how we’re addressing this topic at the Capitol, your best sources for up-to-date information are the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) websites.

MDH: COVID-19 Home Page
https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

MDH: Prepare and Prevent COVID-19
https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/prevention.html

MDH: Situation Update for COVID-19
https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/situation.html

CDC: COVID-19 Home Page
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

CDC: COVID-19 FAQ
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html

Talk to you soon,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Lunch shaming in schools (3/6/2020)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/6/2020

Hello from St. Paul,

A bill I’m chief-authoring that would address lunch shaming in schools will soon have a full debate on the Minnesota House floor. It’s illegal for schools to demean students in order to collect lunch debt, yet we continue to hear stories about how students with negative school lunch balances have their meals tossed in the garbage.

The good news is these incidents aren’t happening locally. But they shouldn’t be happening in any other Minnesota school either, which is why I’m taking action.

Students should not be demeaned or stigmatized because their lunch fund balance is below zero. As I’ve said before, schools should be paid for meals they provide, but that transaction should be held between the district and the parents – not kids.

GOOD NEWS FOR FARMERS

A popular state loan program could soon be available to farmers thanks to recent action taken by the Minnesota House of Representatives.

With strong bipartisan support, the House voted in favor of a bill I’m co-authoring to dedicate $50 million to the Rural Finance Authority (RFA) loan program, which ran out of funding on February 21.

The RFA is Minnesota’s main agricultural lending arm. It partners with agricultural lenders to provide low-cost financing to farmers on terms and conditions not otherwise available from other credit sources.

The bill now heads to the Minnesota Senate for its approval.

READ ACROSS AMERICA DAY

This week I was able to read to 3rd grade students from Ms. Kielsa’s class at Armstrong Elementary School in Cottage Grove as part of “Read Across America Day,” which is held every March 2 in order to encourage and celebrate the joy of reading. It also falls on the same day as author Dr. Suess’ birthday. Thanks for having me!

LOCAL VISITORS

Students Meghan McNamara and Natalie Sorenson as well as Amy Rowan and Derrick Jaeger from the Hastings YMCA stopped by. Meghan and Natalie are very supportive of activities at the Y and have also been active in the Youth In Government program.

FFA Day at the Capitol took place on Tuesday. I was pleased to visit with Annabelle and Leah, representing the Randolph Chapter of Future Farmers of America at the FFA Legislative reception.

Troy Weathers from Hastings was at the Capitol this week for Bank Day.

Hastings constituent Mike McCartney was in for a quick visit with Bike Walk Summit.

Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) visited recently including Tim Powers, Cody Olson, Pete Olson, Joby Nolan and Scott Frampton.

Justice Alan Page and Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis have been traveling the state to talk about their proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment to the state’s education clause. They spoke at a House education event today.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Minnesota’s Disaster Assistance Contingency Account (2/28/2020)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 2/28/2020

Hello from St. Paul,

For the past two years, our communities have been forced to deal with concerns of spring flooding, and this year will likely be no exception.

When disasters strike, cities often utilize Minnesota’s Disaster Assistance Contingency Account to help pay for their damage. The account was created to allocate funds to communities impacted by natural disasters and to avoid calling special sessions to authorize the appropriation of these funds.

Much like last year, the Disaster Assistance Contingency Account sits nearly empty. But legislation I’m co-authoring that would refill the account has taken a major step forward.

The plan allocates $30 million in Fiscal Year 2020 to Minnesota’s disaster assistance contingency account, effective the day after final enactment. The bill, which reflects Governor Walz’ recommendation, would cover the projected $3 million deficit, provide $20 million for anticipated spring 2020 disaster expenses, and provide $7 million for disaster assistance for the remainder of the 2020-21 biennium. It was recently approved in the Minnesota House Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division.

We want impacted cities to immediately begin recovery efforts when trouble arrives. Even with a similar budget surplus last year, it took a while to put money back into the account. Now both Governor Walz and members of the House majority are on board, and I look forward to a faster success story.

I think its great news that Republicans and Democrats are now on the same page when it comes to having disaster relief money available, and that’s only going to benefit cities like Hastings, Cottage Grove, and Afton down the road. Longer term I’d like to look at finding a mechanism where the account is automatically refilled and we don’t have to continue going through this process, but for now I’m pleased with the immediate momentum for this proposal.

February is “I Love to Read Month” and I had the privilege of reading to several groups of students recently. It’s truly one of the highlights of being a state representative. The groups included Kindergarten students in Ms. Gibson’s and Ms. Wenzel’s classrooms at Kennedy Elementary School in Hastings, kindergarten students at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton school in Hastings, and first graders at Newport Elementary. Thanks to all of these schools for allowing me to participate!

Minnesota School Bus Driver Appreciation Day also took place this week, and I stopped by the Hastings Bus Company to thank these professionals for helping get our kids safely to and from school each day.

Recently I had the privilege of attending an Eagle Scout Court of Honor and personally presenting Minnesota House Resolutions congratulating Ben Storm, Rick Fillmore, Sam Storm and Jason Fillmore for earning the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest achievement in scouting. These young men are members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 9907 in Cottage Grove.

Afton constituent Ruth Ann Michnay visited with the Minnesota Society of CPAs to advocate for reduced complexity and federal conformity including Section 179, uniform application of partnership audits and creating a private letter ruling program.

Hastings constituent Paula Rabaey and Stephanie de Samlazano with Minnesota Occupational Therapy Association visited to discuss licensure updates including a reduction in physician paperwork, a license renewal date proposal and continuing education requirements.

Cottage Grove constituents Katelyn Woehnker and Austin Rose stopped by advocating for several bills on behalf of the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota including Seizure Smart Schools, patient access to prescription drugs, and prior authorization reform.

Cottage Grove constituent Morgan Kielsa is a U of MN dental hygiene student and was at the Capitol with the Minnesota Dental Hygienists Association.

The Church Ambassador Network coordinated a visit with Hastings Pastors including Pastor Paris Pasch, The Journey Church, Carl Bower, Mission Pastor at The Harbor, Pastor Randy Berg, Calvary Christian Church, Pastor Neil Johnson, River of Life, Director Jeff Evans, Church Ambassador Network and Pastor Jim Anderson, The Harbor Church.

It was Biker Day at the Capitol recently and I was joined by St Croix Valley Riders members including President Mark Koon, Michelle Moreno and Rhys Moreno. Issues include opposing mandatory helmet laws, motorcycle insurance choice, anti-profiling and having a greater portion of driver license motorcycle endorsement fees going to motorcycle safety courses.

We also had Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Day at the Capitol this week. I had the pleasure of visiting with Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce members including President Wayne Butt, Director Ramona Westerberg, Chamber Executive Director Laurie Gibson Levine, Director Randy Bachman, and 2nd Vice President Dan Myers.

Kristy Barse, Chamber President at the Hastings Minnesota Area Chamber of Commerce also stopped by. I had the pleasure of having Kristy join me in the House Chamber during our floor session and in the Retiring Room.

Minnesota Academy of Physician Assistants Kelsey McFarlane and Rachel Reamer, constituents from Afton and Hastings respectively, were at the Capitol with MAPA.

Wendy, Stephanie, Kaitlyn and Hastings resident Anna are Physical Therapy students at St. Kate’s. They were in recently with the Minnesota Physical Therapy Association to advocate for unrestricted direct access to physical therapy.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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