Lawmakers urged to take action to continue human services programs during outbreak

    Photo courtesy of Minnesota History Center.

    Health care providers, social service nonprofits and advocates are calling on the Legislature to help them treat people with disabilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.  

    In a letter to legislative leadership, organizations ranging from the Minnesota Nurses Association to M Health and Pillsbury United Communities called for emergency action to expand Department of Human Services programs. This includes MinnesotaCare, child care and disability services, economic and housing support. 

    The Legislature passed $150 million of emergency funding Tuesday to help medical providers perform more tests, buy protective equipment and hire additional staff as the state braces for an influx of patients sick with the virus. Gov. Tim Walz signed the measure, plus another $50 million for public health programs. 

    After passing the emergency legislation, lawmakers recessed with a tentative plan to reconvene April 14. Emergency action could be taken up earlier. 

    But authors of the letter say the Legislature needs to reconvene as soon as possible to pass legislation related to social programs. The groups want legislation that would delay the renewal deadline for health care services like Medicaid; ensure seniors do not lose food assistance; provide telemedicine to those with mental health needs; and, give support to people with disabilities who have to stay home. 

    “As a broad-based group of advocacy organizations and providers from across Minnesota we urge policymakers to reconvene Wednesday, March 18 to take action that will better ensure our friends, family members, and neighbors who depend on safety net supports can weather this crisis,” the letter reads.

    Madeline Deninger
    Madeline Deninger is a junior at the University of Minnesota. She covers for politics and state government for Minnesota Reformer as a Kaufman Fellow. She currently serves as city editor of the university's campus newspaper, Minnesota Daily. She's also worked at WCCO-TV and American Public Media.