Legislature passes COVID-19 package in the middle of the night; recesses

Photo courtesy of Minnesota History Center.

Minnesota lawmakers early on Tuesday unanimously voted to make $150 million in grants available to healthcare providers to prepare for a surge of patients because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency legislation came together quickly, with legislative leaders announcing on Monday that they would negotiate details of the bill to ensure Minnesota hospitals and medical facilities can deal with an influx of patients. 

The vote in the Senate was 55-0, and the House vote was 108-0.

The bill creates a health care response fund for eligible providers who can seek state assistance for their COVID-19 planning and operations. Those eligible include ambulance services, clinics, pharmacies and long-term care facilities, among others.

Grants may be used for a wide range of uses related to COVID-19, including the establishment of temporary testing sites or quarantining procedures; the temporary conversion of space; additional staffing; and, the purchase of protective equipment, IT systems used to triage and screen patients, as well as speciality cleaning supplies. 

“While each of us is working as hard as we can to decrease the risk of transmission, we must ensure our health care providers have the resources they need to take care of Minnesotans who may be afflicted with COVID-19,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said in a statement. 

Lawmakers also approved an additional $50 million for the state’s own public health response, bringing the legislation’s total price tag to $200 million.

The Legislature has a tentative plan to return April 14 but could take further emergency actions as necessary.

Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.