The Potluck

Minnesota lawmaker proposes $5 million for state coronavirus response

By: - February 26, 2020 3:29 pm

The spread of coronavirus around the world is prompting a state legislative response as health officials warn it’s a question of when — not if — the virus will reach Minnesota.

State Sen. Jerry Relph, R-St. Cloud, announced Wednesday he would introduce legislation to immediately provide $5 million for the state’s public health response emergency account. 

“Health officials from across the state and world have been warning us for some time: it’s only a matter of time before the novel coronavirus hits the United States and, eventually, Minnesota,” Relph said in a statement.

The funding ask comes amid a  legislative session in which lawmakers are debating how to spend a  $1.3-billion projected budget surplus. A fresh figure on whether the surplus has grown or shrunk will be released Thursday by the Minnesota Management and Budget agency. 

Relph’s bill would divert the $5 million back to the general fund in the case it’s not ultimately needed, according to a news release announcing the legislation. 

Members of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Finance committee have met with state agency officials about the plans for a potential outbreak in the state. 

The fast-developing coronavirus outbreak that originated in China has now grown to see infections in more than 36 countries, with additional confirmed cases in the United States. Brazil announced its first confirmed case, marking the first in Latin America. 

President Donald Trump on Wednesday night is expected to give a press conference outlining the country’s response to the coronavirus. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said the country’s preparedness has been hampered by faulty, government-created test kits that may be understating the virus’ spread in the U.S. 

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Ricardo Lopez
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.