It's back-to-school today, but not in the usual way. Distance learning is being implemented today across Minnesota. Starting today, 870,000 students will attend school in their homes instead of classrooms at least until early May.
Teachers and staff have spent the last eight days preparing for distance learning plans that no teacher preparation program could have prepared them for.
The MSBA Government Relations team continues to monitor state and federal legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately the legislation that was passed last week (see below for more details on (HF 4531/SF 4369) did not include any education provisions.
It was our hope the legislation would have addressed some important areas of education. Specifically, Community Education and Nutrition Services are two areas that will be severely impacted by lost fee revenues. School districts are already spending down fund balances in these programs areas to carry out the original executive orders. Further reliance on fund balances will most likely mean many school districts will be running deficits, laying off staff and reducing programming if legislative remedies are not provided.
MSBA is advocating for the Legislature to expand the state reimbursement to add Fund 2 and Fund 4 for community education and child nutrition services employees, which will allow community education school age care staff, who are appropriately trained, to run the child care for emergency and health workers and other essential employees.
If you are able, we encourage you share this information, along with your district's specific examples with your legislators. Legislators want and need to hear how this impacts your district's finances.
Our focus remains on full funding and maximum flexibility for our school districts and school boards during this time of crisis.
Saturday morning, Governor Walz signed a comprehensive COVID-19 package allocating $330 million in aid for Minnesota's response, which will help our state care for our most vulnerable in the face of an unprecedented crisis. The legislature passed the bill with broad bipartisan support on March 26.
Glen Stubbe - Star Tribune
"The swift, bipartisan passage of this bill is One Minnesota in action," said Governor Walz. "Legislators put aside politics to fight the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of Minnesotans."
HF 4531/SF 4369 includes the following actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, among many other policy proposals that will help Minnesotans:
All provisions take effect immediately and if any appropriations remain unspent, they are to be returned to the general fund.
- Establishes the COVID-19 Minnesota Fund - a new $200 million fund in the state treasury for expenditures related to a COVID-19 peacetime emergency declared by Governor Walz. A new COVID-19 legislative oversight commission would review, and could block, a proposed expenditure of $1 million or more.
- Creates peacetime emergency child care grants -Appropriates $29,964,000 in fiscal year 2020 to the commissioner of human services for grants. Directs the commissioner of human services to distribute funds to Child Care Aware to award emergency grants to child care programs beginning April 1, 2020.
- Provides COVID-19 assistance for veterans -Appropriates $6,200,000 in fiscal year 2020 to the commissioner of veterans affairs to provide emergency assistance grants to veterans and their surviving spouses who are impacted by COVID-19.
- Supports food shelves and food banks - Provides a $9 million general fund appropriation in fiscal year 2020 to the commissioner of human services for food shelf programs to address food bank, food shelf, and transportation needs in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifies how the funds must be allocated and used.
- Expands resources for emergency services and homeless shelters - Provides a $26.537 million general fund appropriation in fiscal year 2020 to the commissioner of human services for emergency services grants to provide homeless persons essential services and emergency shelter in response to COVID-19.
- Expands support available to small businesses - Transfers $20,000,000 from the Minnesota 21st century fund and $10,000,000 from the Minnesota investment revolving loan account to a new account for the small business emergency loan program outlined in the governor's Executive Order 20-15. Appropriates $10,000,000 in fiscal year 2020 from the general fund to the small business loan guarantee program(onetime).
- Extends disaster assistance for farmers to include losses due to COVID-19 - Expands the Rural Finance Authority's (RFA) disaster recovery loan program, which facilitates no-or-low-interest loans to eligible farmers. Authorizes RFA to participate in loans to help farmers clean up, repair, or replace farm structures, inputs, livestock, etc., regardless of the cause of the damage. Authorizes RFA to participate in loans to livestock (cattle, hogs, farmed deer, etc.) and poultry farmers when their eligible expenses or lost revenue are due to the confirmed presence of any contagious animal disease that exists in Minnesota. Authorizes RFA to participate in loans to farmers to offset lost revenue when the loss is due to COVID-19 or another infectious human disease for which a governor declares a peacetime emergency.
We will continue to keep you updated through Twitter and Special Editions of The Weekly Advocate. You can also learn more about the proposed legislation by listening to our Legislative Update Webinar .
House and Senate Bill Introductions - March 26
Education Bill Introductions
Upcoming Meetings and Events
The Legislature will be in recess for the Easter/Passover holidays beginning 11:59 PM Friday, April 3 through Monday, April 13th, 2020. Legislative activity may resume at 8:00 AM Tuesday, April 14th, 2020.