During the Minnesota legislature’s historic and final seventh special session of 2020, Governor Walz’s emergency powers were extended and a COVID-19 relief bill was passed. The bill was met with strong opposition from Republicans in both the House and Senate, protesting the lack of transparency in the process.
Yesterday marked the last time either legislative body will meet before a new session begins on January 5, 2021. No further extension of Walz’s emergency powers will be needed once the new legislative session has begun, as he will retain those powers until session adjourns at the end of May.
Governor Walz is expected to sign the COVID-19 relief bill later today (December 16), a move that will provide direct aid to businesses and workers in need.
The package totals $216 million in relief and includes a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits for in-state workers. Of the total relief, $88 million will be distributed through the Department of Revenue to restaurants, bars and other eligible entities that have seen a 30 percent drop in business.
Funds were also appropriated to specifically aid movie theatres and convention centers. A final pillar of the package is $115 million cash aid for counties to distribute to local businesses that do not qualify for state grants from the state’s Department of Revenue or the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
HF 19, a technical and non-controversial bill, also passed yesterday, providing technical changes to previous COVID-19 relief legislation. One such change is to extend the coverage expiration date of telemedicine services provided directly to a patient in their residence from February to June 2021. Earlier this month, Medical Alley Association’s Policy and Advocacy Director Lilly Melander testified before the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Committee in support of this extension and we were pleased to see it included in the final bill.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the telehealth revolution, forging new innovations in care delivery. MAA has wholeheartedly supported these changes and will continue to do so long after the pandemic has come to an end.
Earlier this year, MAA launched its Telehealth Policy Framework with support from a broad coalition of its members. The Association’s goal is to provide a policy framework for legislators that enables patients access to safe, secure, and clinically approved innovations in care delivery. Adoption of these policies will promote lower costs, increased access, and improved outcomes for people throughout Minnesota. We look forward to working with the legislature during the upcoming regular legislative session on implementing these, and other changes, to Minnesota’s telehealth laws.
Click here to see MAA’s Telehealth Policy Framework.