March 27, 2020

Minnesota Legislative Update: COVID-19 Response Continues

Minnesota remained focused on COVID-19 response efforts this week. During the course of the week Governor Tim Walz (DFL) issued several new executive orders, including a stay-at-home order requiring individuals to stay home except to preform essential activities and work in certain essential industries. He also extended closures for schools, bars, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation.

The legislature returned from an extended recess on Thursday to pass additional funding for COVID-19 response efforts and provide small business relief.

Legislators are still working on legislative issues but do so remotely, complying with Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) prohibiting large gatherings. Legislative work groups have been established to address a number of issues during the legislative recess and are comprised of members from both bodies and parties. While these working group activities have not been open to the public, discussions are ongoing regarding holding virtual committee hearings. The list of work group issue areas and members can be found here.

Governor Walz Announces Stay-at-Home Order

On Wednesday, Governor Walz issued a stay-at-home executive order, Executive Order 20-20, limiting travel and restricting certain non-essential business activities in Minnesota. Similar to shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders in other states, this order exempts individuals working in critical infrastructure industries as identified in a guidance memo issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). This order adds several additional business, non-profit, legal, and public works exemptions. Unlike other state and local orders, Governor Walz’s executive order requires workers who can work from home to do so regardless of whether they work in a critical infrastructure industry.

This executive order takes effect on Friday, March 27 at midnight and lasts through April 10, 2020.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has provided additional guidance to help employers determine if their employees are eligible for a critical sector worker exemption, which can be found here. Employers can also request clarification from DEED as to whether employees fit within the critical sector worker exemption. Clarifications will be available for public review at http://mn.gov/deed/critical.

Additionally, Governor Walz announced that Executive Order 20-04, temporarily closing bars, restaurants and other places of public accommodation, has been extended to May 1, 2020. Take-out and delivery will still be available. He also announced that Executive Order 20-02, temporarily closing brick and mortar schools, is extended to May 4, 2020. During that time, schools are expected be teaching through distance learning.

Legislature Passes Additional COVID-19 Funding

The legislature returned from an extended recess to pass additional funding for COVID-19 response efforts. Both chambers suspended the rules to immediately consider HF 4531, chief authored by Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) in the House and Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) in the Senate. HF 4531 contains a wide range of provisions intended to support COVID-19 response efforts, including the following:

  • Establishes a temporary $200M COVID-19 fund to protect Minnesotans from the COVID-19 outbreak and maintain state government operations during the emergency declared by the Governor
  • Provides $30M in emergency grants for child care programs beginning April 1, 2020
  • Transfers $30M from existing government programs to small business emergency loans
  • Provides $10M to the small business loan guarantee program
  • Provides funding to food banks and food shelves
  • Provides services and shelter to the homeless
  • Codifies the Governor’s Executive Order (20-05) modifying Unemployment Insurance requirements
  • Allows the Commissioner of Commerce to delay or waive licensing deadlines
  • Extends the expiration date for driver’s license renewals

The bill passed the House by a vote of 99-4 and the Senate by a unanimous vote of 67-0.

Bipartisan concerns were raised regarding the lack of funding for small businesses, which government is forcing them to close their doors, and workers compensation eligibility for first responders who may contract COVID-19 during the course their employment.

The legislature recessed again until April 14th leaving themselves the option to return sooner if there is an agreement with all the leaders on legislation.

Small Business Relief

Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-15 to provide $30 million in forgivable emergency loans to Minnesota small businesses. Loans are available regardless of a business’s organizational form (i.e., independent contractor, sole proprietorship, limited liability company, etc.), and will be administered through non-profit local lenders.

Minnesota businesses have also received authorization to apply for low-interest disaster loans under the federal Small Business Administration (SBA). The loans authorized under Executive Order 20-15 are designed to provide immediate relief as the process to receive SBA disaster loans typically takes 60- 90 days.

This relief was also approved by the Legislature as part of its COVID-19 response legislation.

Full List of COVID-19 Related Emergency Executive Orders in Minnesota

In addition to the stay-at-home order, Governor Walz announced Executive Order 20-18 extending closures of bars, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation to May 1, 2020. Take-out and delivery will still be available. He also announced Executive Order 20-19 to extend closures of brick and mortar schools to May 4th, 2020.

In total, Governor Walz has now issued 20 executive orders in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. They can be found as follows:

The Minnesota Department of Health has created a page with the most recent guidance, updates and resources related to COVID-19, which can be found here.

Faegre Drinker’s Washington, D.C.-based federal government affairs team is also providing updates on the federal response to the COVID-19 outbreak.The most recent update focuses on the $2 trillion relief package that has passed the Senate and is expected to pass the House of Representatives on Friday. That update can be found here.

Important Dates

  • March 27- April 14: Legislative Recess (with option for reconvening as needed)
  • May 15-16: GOP State Convention
  • May 18: Legislature Adjourns
  • May 30-31: DFL State Convention
  • June 2: Candidate Filing Deadline for 2020 Election
  • August 11: Primary Election Day
  • November 3: Election Day
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