Legislature passes $330 million COVID-19 bill – here's what's in it

The Legislature had previously passed a $200 million package to fight the virus.
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Lawmakers practicing social distancing in the House.

Lawmakers practicing social distancing in the House.

Minnesota lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill providing an additional $330 million of funding to fight the novel coronavirus.

The bill passed by a vote of 99-4 in the Minnesota House, and passed unanimously in the Senate. It comes after the Legislature passed a $200 million package earlier this month that provides emergency funding to the state's healthcare system.

Here's a look at what the $330 million package will provide:

– $200 million of it will go into a COVID-19 fund that will be controlled by the Walz Administration, which can use it to provide rapid response to issues as they arise, albeit large spending amounts will still come with oversight from the Legislature.

– $30 million will fund grants that can be given to providers of childcare for the children of essential workers, which includes registered family and group family daycares, childcare centers, tribally licensed daycares, all of which are in good standing. These organizations can get monthly grants of up to $5,500.

– $40 million in emergency grants and loan guarantees for Minnesota's small businesses.

– $6.2 million in funding to be used by the Commissioner of Veterans Affairs to provide financial support to veterans or the spouses of veterans who need assistance as a result of COVID-19.

– $9 million of funding to keep food shelf programs, to be allocated by Hunger Solutions.

– $26.5 million to be used by the Commissioner of Human Services for emergency services grants, which includes $15.2 million to provide additional shelter space for the homeless, which may be used to provide motel or hotel rooms.  A further $5 million is earmarked for buying hygiene and sanitation supplies, while $6.3 million will be used to hire staff to care for the homeless.

–$11 million in grants for tribal nations to fund emergency response activities.

– $2.4 million to pay temporary staff to process Minnesota license and ID applications.

The four House members who vote against the bill were GOP Reps. Steve Drazkowski, Jeremy Munson, Tim Miller, and Cal Bahr.

Drazkowski expressed concerns during the floor debate that the bill, which was put together in private, was being rushed at a time the full scale of COVID-19 isn't known.

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And while he voted for it, there was concern raised by DFL Rep. Michael Howard (Richfield) that the bill didn't include any rental assistance to ensure Minnesotans can keep paying their bills.

“We cannot in good conscience urge the vast majority of Minnesotans to stay home during this pandemic if we are not going to ensure they can afford the roof over their heads," he said. "The governor's executive order rightly halts evictions but it does not cancel rent."

Another request, this one from Gov. Walz, to provide emergency checks to those on public assistance programs, also didn't make the final bill, per MPR.

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