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H.F. No. 4531 - COVID-19 RESPONSE APPROPRIATIONS (Minnesota Laws 2020, Chapter 71)
 
Author: Senator Paul E. Gazelka
 
Prepared By: Thomas S. Bottern, Senate Counsel (651/296-3810)
 
Date: March 30, 2020



 

OVERVIEW

This act contains measures intended to assist with the state response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including appropriations of $331.5 million in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 from all funds, of which $298.2 million is from the general fund. Changes in law include extensions of time for individuals to comply with statutory requirements, waivers of certain fees, and additional authority and flexibility for state agencies responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.

ARTICLE 1

COVID-19 RESPONSE APPROPRIATIONS​

Section 1 [Driver and Vehicle Services Temporary Staffing; Appropriation] appropriates $2.4 million in fiscal year 2020 from the vehicle services operating account in the special revenue fund to the commissioner of public safety to hire temporary employees to process and issue drivers’ licenses and identification cards. The commissioner must only use the amount of temporary staff necessary to achieve an average turnaround time of 45 days to issue drivers’ licenses and identification cards. The appropriation is for work performed on or before December 31, 2020. This section is effective the day following final enactment.

Section 2 [Peacetime Emergency Child Care Grants] establishes an emergency grant program for child care providers, to be administered through Child Care Aware. Child care providers throughout the state would be eligible for a base award of $4,500 per month if the applicant provider attests and agrees in writing to prioritize space in its program for children of emergency workers. Providers serving children during nonstandard business hours, children whose first language is not English, or children who have special needs, are eligible for an additional $1,000 per month. Providers licensed to serve 15 or more children are eligible for an additional grant of up to $15,500 per month, based on the provider’s capacity to serve children during the peacetime emergency.

Section 3 [Military Veterans Covid-19 Response Assistance] appropriates $6,200,000 onetime to the commissioner of veterans affairs to provide assistance to veterans or their surviving spouses who are in need due to COVID-19. The assistance may be used for emergency financial relief, hospitalization assistance, medical care or treatment, or other items as determined by the commissioner.

Section 4 [Food Shelf Programs Appropriation] provides an additional $9 million for food shelf programs, to be allocated by Hunger Solutions, to enable specialized responses to community needs throughout the state. The funding may also be used to purchase food, diapers, toilet paper, and other necessary supplies, and to fund transportation services to distribute the supplies.

Section 5 [Housing Support Appropriation] provides an additional $5.5 million for a temporary three-month 15 percent increase to the base room and board rate and the base supplemental service rate for housing support providers. The temporary rate increase does not apply to a provider’s supplementary rate, which is an add-on to the provider’s base rates.

Section 6 [Emergency Services Grants Appropriation] provides an additional $26.5 million for the emergency services grant program, which is an existing grant program that provides homeless persons essential services and emergency shelter. The additional funds are for additional emergency shelter space, alternative housing options, and providing safe locations for homeless individuals to self-isolate; for supplies to disinfect emergency shelters; and for additional staffing.

Section 7 [COVID-19 Response Minnesota Fund] establishes a new COVID-19 Minnesota Fund for expenses related to COVID-19.  Establishes a legislative commission for reviewing expenses in the fund above $1 million.  The fund and commission are effective the day following final enactment and expire on May 11, 2020.

Subdivision 1 [Fund created] establishes a new fund titled the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund for expenses related to COVID-19 and the peacetime emergency declared by the governor.  Appropriates money in the fund to the commissioner of management and budget and allows the money to be transferred to other agencies for expenses associated with COVID-19.  Transfers any unobligated money in the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund on May 11, 2020, to the general fund.

Subdivision 2 [Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission review] establishes a Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission that includes five senators and five representatives to review expenditures in the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund.  Senators include the majority leader, the minority leader, the senate president, the Finance Committee chair and the Finance Committee minority lead.  Representatives include the speaker, the minority leader, the majority leader, the Ways and Means Committee chair, and the Ways and Means Committee ranking member.  Designees may be appointed if any member is unable to serve.  Commission members must review expenditures submitted to the commission.  Expenditures submitted to the commission must be greater than $1 million.  Expenditures from the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund that are less than $1 million are not required to be submitted to the commission for review.  Commission members have 24 hours to review submitted expenditures.  Expenditures submitted to the commission are approved unless three commission members from the senate and three members from the house make a negative recommendation.

Subdivision 3 [Biweekly expenditure report] requires the commissioner of management and budget to prepare a report of all expenditures made from the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund twice a month.

Section 8 [Final Report] requires the commissioner of management and budget to prepare a report of all FY 2020-21 expenditures from the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund by July 15, 2021.  The report must be submitted to the chairs and ranking minority members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee.

Section 9 [Transfer] transfers $200 million from the general fund to the new COVID-19 Minnesota Fund in fiscal year 2020.  The appropriation is effective the day following final enactment and expires on May 11, 2020. 

Section 10 [Tribal Nations Grants] appropriates $11,000,000 in fiscal year 2020 only from the general fund to the commissioner of revenue for grants to 11 eligible tribal nations for activities that mitigate the immediate health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Limits the grants to $1,000,000 per applicant. Provides a timeline for applications and distribution of the grants. Requires grant recipients to make a report to the commissioner of revenue. Requires the commissioner of revenue to compile the reports and deliver them to the legislature.

Section 11 [Transfers; Small Business Emergency Loan Program] transfers the following amounts to the small business emergency loan account:

  • $20,000,000 from the Minnesota 21st century fund; and
  • $10,000,000 from the Minnesota investment fund revolving loan account.

Appropriates the transferred amounts to the commissioner of employment and economic development to make loans to small businesses during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency as provided in Governor's Executive Order 20-15. Requires repayments to be credited proportionately to the accounts or returned proportionately to the accounts if unexpended. 

Section 12 [Appropriation; Small Business Loan Guarantee Program] appropriates $10,000,000 in fiscal year 2020 from the general fund to the commissioner of employment and economic development for the small business loan guarantee program. 

ARTICLE 2

COVID-19 RESPONSE PROVISIONS

Section 1 [RFA Disaster Recovery Loan Program; Uses] modifies the Rural Finance Authority (RFA) disaster recovery loan program to broaden the use of the loans to include cleanup, repair, and replacement for any emergency, replace any livestock due to a contagious animal disease, and replace income due to a contagious human disease under a peacetime emergency declared by the governor.

Section 2 [RFA Disaster Recovery Loan Program; Eligibility] expands eligibility for the RFA disaster loan program to include damage or loss due to any contagious animal disease and due to contagious human diseases under a peacetime emergency declared by the governor.

Section 3 [Small Business Loan Guarantee Program] amends the small business loan guarantee program, which allows loans to be made by Qualified Economic Development Lenders (bank or commercial lender, public entity, or a private nonprofit economic development organization). Provides that the state would set aside funds in a dedicated reserve or account to guarantee a specified percentage of each approved loan. Allows loans that are expected to be made to a small business (employing the equivalent of 250 full-time employees in Minnesota) within the 12 months after a declaration of a peacetime public health emergency to be used for business purposes exclusively in Minnesota. Allows loans to be used for machinery or equipment purchases, maintenance, or repair; expenses related to moving into or within Minnesota; and working capital. Allows loans to be guaranteed for 80 percent of a loan up to $200,000. Deletes language requiring sale to the secondary market. Requires a report from the commissioner of employment and economic development of loans guaranteed under the program by December 31, 2020.

Section 4 [Small business emergency loan account] creates the small business emergency loan account as an account in the special revenue fund.

Section 5 [Application Fees] requires wholesalers and manufacturers of medical gases that operate more than one facility to pay an initial license fee to the Board of Pharmacy of $5,260 for the first facility and $260 for each additional facility.  This section also reduces the initial license fee for medical gas distributors from $5,260 to $260.  This section is effective June 1, 2020, and applies to licenses issued on or after that date.

Section 6 [Annual Renewal Fees] requires wholesalers and manufacturers of medical gases that operate more than one facility to pay an annual renewal fee to the Board of Pharmacy of $5,260 for the first facility and $260 for each additional facility.  This section also reduces the renewal license fee for medical gas distributors from $5,260 to $260. This section is effective June 1, 2020, and applies to licenses renewed on or after that date.

Section 7 [Deposit of Fees] clarifies the fees that are required to be deposited into the opiate epidemic response account.  The section is effective June 1, 2020.

Section 8 [General Prescription Requirements for Controlled Substances] eliminates the requirement that prescriptions for opiates and pain relievers listed in schedules I through IV be dispensed within 30 days after the date on which the prescription was issued and not refilled more than 30 days after the previous date on which the prescription was initially filled or refilled.  It also eliminates the limitation on refills after the authorized refills have been used up or have expired and the requirement that a new prescription be issued by the prescriber if continued therapy is necessary. This section is effective the day following final enactment.

Section 9 [Evidence; Residence in Minnesota] amends the documents a person may use as evidence of the person’s principal residence in the state for purposes of applying for a REAL ID driver’s license or identification card.  This section is effective four weeks following final enactment or on the date the changes required by this section are implemented, whichever is earlier.

Section 10 [Health Care Decisions] gives the medical director of the Department of Corrections the same limited authority to make health care decisions for inmates placed outside a prison on conditional medical release as the director currently has for inmates within prisons. This provision is permanent and is effective the day following final enactment.

Section 11 [Place of Confinement] authorizes the commissioner of corrections to contract with counties to place certain inmates in local correctional facilities. This applies only to inmates who, upon commitment, have 90 days or less remaining on their terms of imprisonment. This provision is permanent and is effective the day following final enactment.

Section 12 [Commissioner of Commerce Authority] gives the commissioner of commerce the authority to delay, stay, or waive regulatory deadlines under specified circumstances. Reporting requirements are set forth.

Section 13 [Office of Higher Education] Subdivision 1 specifies that the powers granted in this section apply beginning on the date the peacetime public health emergency is declared and expires 60 days after the declaration expires.  The term “peacetime public health emergency” is defined.

Subdivision 2 grants to the commissioner of the Office of Higher Education temporary powers described and limited by this section to protect the financial stability and academic standing of students, grantees, and borrowers.

Subdivision 3 authorizes the commissioner to modify or waive statutory requirements or administrative rules relating to:

  1. Works study programs
  2. The SELF loan and other lending programs under Minnesota Statutes sections 136A.15 to 136A.1787
  3. The state grant program
  4. Student grants, aid, and scholarships

Subdivision 4 requires the commissioner to seek and receive legislative approval if action taken under this section will result in a fiscal impact to the state.

Subdivision 5 requires the commissioner to consult with the chairs and ranking minority members of the legislative committees with jurisdiction over higher education issues, when possible, before exercising temporary powers under this section.

Subdivision 6 requires the commissioner to submit a report within 90 days of the expiration of the peacetime public health emergency regarding the temporary powers that were exercised, and a timeline as to when and why temporary powers were exercised.

This section is effective retroactively for any emergency declaration covered by this section.  This section expires the later of December 31, 2020, or 60 days after the end of a peacetime public health emergency declared before December 31, 2020.

Section 14 [Emergency Purchasing; Workplace and Equal Pay Certificates] exempts emergency purchases by state agencies from certain contracting requirements under Minnesota Statutes, sections 363A.36 and 363A.44. Minnesota Statutes, section 363A.36, prohibits the state from contracting for goods or services in excess of $100,000 with businesses unless they have submitted an affirmative action plan, and section 363A.44 prohibits the state from contracting for goods or services in excess of $500,000 with businesses unless they have an equal pay certificate. Requires the commissioner of administration to report to the legislature on purchases made using the exemption. This section is effective upon enactment and expires January 31, 2021.

Section 15 [Peacetime Public Health Emergency; Driver’s License, Identification Card, and Disability Certificate Extensions] extends the expiration dates of driver’s licenses, state identification cards, disability certificates, and disability permits during a peacetime public health emergency period. The expiration dates are extended until the last day of the second month following the month in which the emergency period ends. A person moving to Minnesota from out-of-state is not required to obtain a new Minnesota driver’s license during the emergency period and if the person’s out-of-state driver’s license expires during this period, it is extended in the same manner as a Minnesota driver’s license. The commissioner of public safety must work with law enforcement to ensure all law enforcement officers are aware of the changes made in this section. The commissioner must also make efforts to publicize information about extended expiration dates.

Section 16 [Report to Legislature; Powers Exercised by Commissioner of Public Safety During Peacetime Public Health Emergency] requires the commissioner of public safety to report to the legislature on temporary powers exercised relating to driver and vehicle services and the State Patrol. The report must be submitted within 30 days after a peacetime public health emergency period ends.

Section 17 [Food Shelves; Peacetime Emergency Distribution)] authorizes additional funding to be provided to the statewide network of food shelves, and authorizes the network to purchase and distribute diapers, toilet paper, and other necessary supplies to needy families, in addition to food.

Section 18 [Defense or Objection to Real and Personal Property Taxes; Filing Extension] provides a one-month extension, from April 30th to May 30th, to file a real or personal property tax petition in the office of the district court administrator. 

Section 19 [Use of Sanitizers and Disinfectants for Treatment of COVID-19] provides an exemption, until April 1, 2021, from licensing as a commercial pesticide applicator for persons who use a general-use sanitizer or disinfectant for hire in response to COVID-19.

Section 20 [Suitable Employment During COVID-19 Pandemic] specifies that employment is not suitable, for purposes of work search requirements for unemployment benefit applicants, if the employment (1) puts the health and safety of the applicant at risk due to potential exposure of the applicant to COVID-19; or (2) puts the health and safety of other workers and the general public at risk due to potential exposure of the other workers and the general public to COVID-19.

Section 21 [Temporary Suspension of One-Week Waiting Period] waives the current one-week nonpayable waiting period to receive unemployment benefits for applicants for unemployment insurance benefit accounts established between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. Provides an effective date retroactive to March 1, 2020.

Section 22 [Temporary Suspension of Five-Week Business Owner Benefit Limitation] suspends the current five-week limitation for receipt of unemployment benefits for business owners for applicants for unemployment insurance benefit accounts established between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. Provides an effective date retroactive to March 1, 2020.

Section 23 [Leave of absence Due to COVID-19] For applicants applying for unemployment insurance benefits accounts established between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, presumes a leave of absence to be an involuntary leave of absence and not ineligible for unemployment benefits if:

  • a determination has been made that the presence of the applicant in the workplace would jeopardize the health of others;
  • a quarantine or isolation order has been issued to the applicant;
  • there is a recommendation that the applicant should self-isolate or self-quarantine due to elevated risk from COVID-19 due to being immunocompromised;
  • the applicant has been instructed by the applicant's employer not to come to the employer's place of business due to an outbreak of a communicable disease; or
  • the applicant has received a notification from a school district, day care, or other child care provider that either classes are canceled or the applicant's ordinary child care is unavailable, provided that the applicant made a reasonable effort to obtain other child care and requested time off. Provides an effective date retroactive to March 1, 2020.

Section 24 [Computation of Future Tax Rate; Effect of Payment From Trust Fund] excludes unemployment insurance benefits paid as a result of an applicant not being able to work directly or indirectly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from use in computing the future unemployment insurance tax rate of a taxpaying employer. Provides an effective date retroactive to March 1, 2020, and a section expiration date of December 31, 2020.

Section 25 [Onetime Exception to Restrictions on Use of Minnesota Investment Fund Local Government Loan Repayment Funds] Paragraph (a) allows a onetime exception until the end of fiscal year 2020 to the restrictions on use of Minnesota investment funds (MIF) for a home rule charter or statutory city, county, or town that has uncommitted money to allow the use those funds to issue loans to retail stores, service providers, and hospitality businesses, in addition to the current statutory permitted uses. Paragraph (b) requires a home rule charter or statutory city, county, or town exercising the option to submit by February 15, 2021, an accounting and explanation of the use and distribution of the funds.

Section 26 [Peacetime Emergency; Delayed Submission Of Fingerprints Authorized] authorizes the Superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to delay submission of statutorily required fingerprints for background checks upon a declaration of a peacetime emergency. This authorization is limited to essential workers who are employed, licensed, or applying for employment or licensure in critical infrastructure.  Once the peacetime emergency or the temporary delay period ends, the essential worker must provide fingerprints and the licensing or employment authority must revoke the essential worker’s credentials if the background check reveals disqualifying information. Requires the superintendent to provide notice and a report to the legislature. Provides criminal penalties for an essential worker who knowingly provides false information. This section is effective the day following final enactment and expires on March 1, 2021.

 

 

 

 
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