Things I’ve been working on (4/9/2020)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/9/2020

Good morning,

As you may have heard, Governor Walz has extended the stay-at-home order until May 4, and has relaxed a few work restrictions.

During this continued time of stay-at-home transition, I want to share with you some of the things I’ve been working on over the past few weeks, the people that have reached out to me that I’ve been trying to help (from schools to businesses), and the new realities we face at the State Capitol.

LOCAL SCHOOL UPDATES

I’ve been in contact with local schools to see how things are going. Remember, the school buildings might be closed, but schools are not. As expected, there have been some challenges with distance learning, especially since not all students have access to needed technology. In addition to distance learning, school districts are also serving meals and providing child care.

Teachers, faculty and staff have stepped up, and in some cases they’ve been called upon to perform new tasks. Everyone is pitching in. Districts have reported that things are mostly going well so far.

For years, schools have asked for more control, innovation, project based learning, less focus on seat time, measuring the outputs, not the inputs and so forth. Now is their chance to shine, as this is an opportunity to see what is possible. This is not a pilot project, this is our new reality for the near future. Let’s see what good can come out of this for the future of our schools.

LOCAL BUSINESS ASSISTANCE

I’ve also heard from many of you asking how your business is impacted by the governor’s stay at home executive order.

So who is considered “essential?”

After hearing from a Hastings florist, I asked the Governor’s Office and received clarification that florists can deliver plants and flowers as long as social distancing takes place. This is good news for all florists as it helps these local business owners who would have been at risk of losing inventory.

Funeral homes in our district also were interested in how they were impacted by the Governor’s actions, so I also reached out on their behalf. With senior living homes and hospitals limiting visitation, funeral home services are now, more than ever, an important part of the grieving process. While large gatherings are not allowed, small groups of immediate family can pay last respects to their loved ones.

We have several marinas in and around our district. I was contacted about concerns for dry docked boats in event of spring flooding, and asked the administration for guidance.

It was decided that marina operations are allowed to protect boats, docks and other infrastructure as long as they remained closed to the public and social distancing is followed.

I’ve also been in contact with Regina Hospital as well as senior living homes in our district, as it’s important to remember these workers caring for our loved ones.

I’ve learned that staffing is an issue. For example Regina Senior Living has 25 open positions, and Augustana Care is also hiring. They are also concerned about the logistics of purchasing hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies as they continue their tireless efforts to protect residents from COVID-19.

Area child care providers are also concerned about losing kids as well as revenue. Some good news for them: they can now apply for Parent Aware grants. Some have also reported having quantities limited when ordering cleaning supplies, requiring several smaller deliveries. I pointed out to them that the governors executive order specifically stated these items shouldn’t be limited, so hopefully that change has been made.

As always, if you have a question in regards to your business, or anything COVID-19 related, please contact me at rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn or 651-296-3135 and I will do my best to get you an answer.

MOVING FORWARD

The legislature continues to work, even though we’re doing things differently.

Conference calls and video conference committee meetings – such as Hastings Chamber members, county delegations, weekly COVID-19 related calls with the White House – have become the norm. Hundreds of emails from constituents asking for clarification and help have been received, and I’m happy to do it.

We are in very difficult times now and it’s likely that things will get worse before they get better. We’re asked to #StayHomeMN, limit our contact with each other, and adhere to recommended social distancing guidelines and other safety precautions.

Much like 9/11 changed us, our lives will be forever impacted by the deadly reality of a worldwide pandemic.

Eventually, the worst will be behind us. We will return to a life that will become our new normal. We’ll spend time with our families, friends and neighbors. We’ll go to restaurants, ball games and concerts. Our businesses will reopen and people will be allowed to go back to work.

We will have brighter days, we will return to prosperity and we will get through this together.

I wish you all a Happy Easter and Passover.
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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The latest news from the Capitol (4/7/2020)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/7/2020

Hello from St. Paul,

As we enter another week under the Governor’s stay-at-home order, I want to share with you some of the latest news from the Capitol.

WORKERS COMPENSATION BILL APPROVED

On Tuesday, the Minnesota House approved a workers’ compensation bill to protect first responders. It is the product of the Workers Compensation Advisory Council which includes members from both business and labor.

We’ve heard a lot from workers on the front lines regarding workers comp and a presumption that positive COVID-19 tests can be job related, so I’m pleased Republicans and Democrats were able to come together and help them.

It’s unfortunate that at least one local lawmaker has been using this worldwide pandemic to take opportunistic partisan shots in an election year. I think Minnesotans, and the people of this district, expect better and deserve to see us work together in a bipartisan manner. As expected, we did that by taking care of the first responders and health professionals that are protecting us and keeping us safer.

PROJECTED BUDGET SURPLUS: IT’S GONE

I want to be clear about the state’s budget. First, there is no longer a budget surplus. Just a short few weeks ago, we were talking about a projected budget surplus of more than $1.5 billion. It’s important to note this was projected and was based on state spending levels as well as revenue collections from state income and sales taxes.

The COVID-19 response is causing far greater spending and is severely impacting tax revenue, therefore the budget surplus that was projected is gone, budget reserves will be needed in the future and we might still face a deficit.

It’s common sense, really. If some businesses are forced to close due to executive action and thousands of residents are forced to go on unemployment, income and sales tax collections are obviously going to drop dramatically. Meanwhile, overall state spending has not been lowered, yet the revenue collections needed to support that level of spending are no longer there.

This is why it’s important for us to immediately identify areas where Minnesota can limit non-essential spending.

In my next update, I’ll share with you some information I’ve heard from our school districts, as well as local businesses I’ve tried to help that are now facing unforeseen challenges and are looking for answers.

Be well,
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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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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