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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