Saturday, April 25, 2020
Positive developments related to a COVID-19 response in Minnesota unfolded this week. Thanks to the Governor, Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, and Hennepin Healthcare, our state now has now significantly increased our testing capacity- up to 20,000 Minnesotans per day. Minnesotans can find a testing location on the newly launched COVID-19 website here.
Data shows that social distancing is working in our state to help slow the spread of the virus, but we’re not out of the woods yet. We must continue to keep up these science-driven practices guided by the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health to ensure we aren’t jeopardizing our progress.
Getting Minnesotans Safely Back to WorkThe Governor also announced this week executive action to get approximately 80,000-100,000 Minnesotans back to work starting on April 27. This will be a gradual process, starting with workers in non-customer facing industrial and office-based businesses who aren’t able to telework. As testing increases, positive cases can be isolated, and health care capacity increases, we can continue “turning the dials” to reopen more businesses. More information about this process is available here.
Distance Learning ExtendedOn Thursday, it was announced that distance learning for our K-12 schools will continue until the end of the school year. On Friday, Governor Walz, Lt. Governor Flannagan, and Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) Commissioner Ricker announced increased efforts to reach students during the extension of distance learning. Those efforts include increased direction from MDE on meeting the needs of students and their families around technology, mental health, and other services. Additional direction on how to make distance learning successful for students with special needs will also be forthcoming.
Unemployment Insurance Available for Self-Employed Workers Yesterday, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) began making Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments for self-employed, contract, and other workers who were not previously eligible for regular unemployment benefits.
Here’s what Minnesotans need to know about applying for PUA:
Save the Date!Please save the date for our upcoming virtual town hall meeting on April 29 at 6:00 p.m. I’ll be joined by our City Councilmember Jane Prince, Metropolitan Councilmember Chai Lee, and Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough. It will be broadcast live via fb.me/repjayxiong. If you have questions for the event, you can submit them ahead of time to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep in TouchEven if you can’t join us next week, please always feel free to contact me anytime with ideas, input, and questions. Being your state representative is a great honor and privilege, and I appreciate the opportunity to help when it’s needed.
Have a good weekend.
Recent News for Rep. Jay Xiong
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Saturday, April 18, 2020
A new executive order to reopen many recreational outdoor activities went into effect at 5:00 a.m. this morning. The changes will allow Minnesotans to continue to enjoy the outdoors close to home, while following social distancing guidelines.
Under this executive action, facilities that may reopen or remain open include:
This week, the Legislature met twice to pass three core pieces of legislation. Read about them below:
COVID-19 Response LegislationEarlier this week, representatives and senators reconvened session to pass a fourth COVID-19 emergency package of legislation. These were mostly policy fixes to help ease daily operations for Minnesotans during the pandemic. Measures passed include additional support to help Minnesotans execute wills, allow local governments to meet remotely, suspend certain deadlines and expiration dates, expand use of telemedicine, allow Minnesotans to apply for marriage licenses during the peacetime emergency without appearing in person, and more. You can read more here.
Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act Passes & Signed into LawTuesday was also a victory for insulin warriors who have been advocating for this legislation for years, like Nicole Smith-Holt, the mother of Alec Smith, who passed away tragically because he was forced to ration his insulin due to the cost. The Legislature approved a new landmark measure that ensures Minnesotans can access their insulin at a price they can afford.
The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act will ensure that Minnesotans who cannot afford their insulin and are facing an emergency need can access a 30-day supply at their pharmacy for a co-pay of $35. Eligible Minnesotans include those who are uninsured, under-insured, receiving Medicare and do not have access to low co-pays. The legislation also streamlines the process by which Minnesotans can access affordable insulin in the long-term. Insulin manufacturers would participate in the program and could be fined up to $3.6 million a year, doubling in the second year, for non-compliance.
Minnesota House Approves Takeout Wine & BeerYesterday, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation to allow takeout sales of beer and wine from bars and restaurants with curbside food pick-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic. This by no means is a fix-all solution, but will help bring in some additional revenues to our St. Paul restaurants and bars who are struggling.
The legislation allows bars and restaurants with liquor licenses to sell up to 72 ounces – the equivalent of one six-pack – of beer, cider or hard seltzer and up to 750 milliliters of wine – the equivalent of one bottle – with food orders. The alcoholic beverages must be sold in their original, unopened containers. Governor Walz will sign the bill into law as soon as it reaches his desk.
Unemployment Insurance ExtensionThe Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced that the agency has fully implemented the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides a 13 week extension of unemployment benefits for eligible applications. PEUC was authorized by Congress in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which was signed into law on March 27, 2020.
Free Metro Mobility Rides for Health Care WorkersThe Metropolitan Council has announced free transportation to the region’s frontline healthcare workers for a safe and stress-free trip to and from work. Effective early this week, Metro Mobility is providing free door-to-door service from home to work and work to home for any person who works at a healthcare facility, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This new service will provide solo or very small group on-demand rides for essential health care workers such as doctors, nurses, home health aides, clinic staff, janitorial and all other support staff. If you are a health care worker who relied on transit to get to work, or are interested in signing up for this free service, learn more here.
Assistance with Energy BillsThe Department of Commerce’s Energy Assistance Program still has funds available to help Minnesotans pay their energy bills. For those who have not already received help this heating season, there is still time. The Department of Commerce especially encourages newly unemployed, households with young children, people with disabilities, veterans, and seniors to apply. To see if you are eligible, click here.
Keep in TouchPlease continue to reach out with questions or input. I am grateful for the opportunity to provide help if I can be of assistance.
Thank you for the honor of representing our east side neighborhoods at the Capitol.
Saturday, April 11, 2020Dear Neighbors,
This week, Governor Walz extended his Stay at Home Executive Order until May 4. Using science based, data-driven research, this call was made to allow Minnesota to build new hospital capacity, buy ventilators and masks, plan for how to protect those most at risk, expand testing, and free up time for health care giants like the Mayo Clinic to develop critical treatments for the virus. Read more about what this means for you and your family here.
The Governor is committed to saving lives as COVID-19 cases spike – and making sure we are protecting our local economy at the same time. The Walz Administration added occupations to the “Critical Sector Descriptions” that are now exempt from the Stay at Home order and can work immediately. These include the following workers and employers:
Protecting our First RespondersOn Tuesday, the Legislature passed legislation delivering workers’ compensation benefits to health care and public safety workers who contract COVID-19 in the line of duty. In particular, the legislation provides a presumption that if these workers contract COVID, they did so during the course of their employment and are covered by workers’ comp. Front-line workers covered in the bill include doctors and nurses, firefighters, paramedics, police, long-term care workers, home health workers, correctional officers, and child care providers. This was long overdue, but glad the Senate joined us in the House in getting this done. The Governor signed the bill into law on Wednesday.
United Hospital Seeking PPE DonationsAs our health care workers continue the daily battle against COVID-19, St. Paul’s United Hospital is seeking additional donations of personal protective equipment (PPE). They are asking for:
Guidance for Additional $600 UI PaymentsI've received many questions about the additional $600 payments in unemployment insurance from the federal government. Yesterday, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development received final guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor to be one of the first states to make these payments. Click here to learn more about what this means for Minnesotans.
COVID-19 Financial Assistance for VeteransThis week, Governor Tim Walz announced that Minnesota veterans and surviving spouses impacted by COVID-19 may be eligible for one-time financial relief grants in the amount of $1,000. The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) is now accepting applications from Minnesota veterans who have been financially impacted. You can find out how to apply here.
Keep in TouchPlease continue to contact me anytime with questions, ideas, or input. I appreciate hearing from you and any opportunity to help during these challenging times.