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Gov. Tim Walz says he will end his COVID emergency powers Aug. 1

Republicans have been calling for an end to the COVID emergency since three months into the pandemic.

Gov. Tim Walz announced he will end his COVID-19 emergency powers by Aug. 1, as Minnesota continues to recover from the pandemic.

The governor made the statement Friday as the DFL and Republicans continue to negotiate terms on the two remaining budget bills – public safety and state government finance – in an effort to prevent a government shutdown July 1.

The governor's use of emergency powers since March 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a consistent sticking point with the GOP-led Senate, but as the two parties inched closer to deals on the remaining budget bills – including a public safety bill that includes police reforms – Walz said he will be ending his executive powers.

He says he will end it himself on Aug. 1, but would also be happy for the Legislature to end it during a July special session, provided he can keep the powers till Aug. 1. Walz says that will allow Minnesota to qualify for federal food stamp funding through the end of the year.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, the Walz Administration also explained that allowing the emergency to continue till Aug. 1 will allow the state to reorganize and redeploy staff working on assignments directly related to the COVID emergency, which the Minnesota Department of Health says would take the whole of July to complete as it involves around 500 workers.

It would also allow the Department of Employment and Economic Development to operate at a high capacity to process unemployment insurance claims and to recalculate employer tax rates.

In response, Sen. Gazelka (R-Gull Lake) said he would be amending the still-to-be-passed state government finance bill to end the peacetime emergency as of July 1, rather than Aug. 1, which may not be accepted by the DFL-led House and thus could still lead to a shutdown on July 1.

Gazelka has been calling for Walz to end his emergency powers since as early as June 2020, arguing that control over the state's COVID measures should be under the purview of the Legislature, which is split between the DFL, which mostly approved of Walz's COVID mitigation measures, and the GOP, which mostly opposed them.

The pushback to Walz's emergency powers started about six months before Minnesota experienced its most deadly COVID-19 spike, which saw more than 1,100 deaths reported in November, and more than 1,750 in December.

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