(The Center Square) – Gov. Tim Walz expanded his wish list to legislators for an upcoming special session. Walz marked three priorities for lawmakers to agree on: Frontline Worker Pay, drought relief, and pandemic response.
Walz’s final peacetime emergency ended in July, so he needs lawmakers onboard to make the sweeping changes on his agenda. He urged legislators to address the following 11 items:
- Addressing Hospital Capacity by temporarily reinstating bed moratorium waivers
- Addressing Nursing Home Capacity by continuing temporary waivers related to non-layaway bed requirements
- Reinstituting Mortuary Science Storage and Licensing waivers
- Allow for Nursing Home Transfer & Discharge by temporarily waiving resident notification timeframes
- Allow nursing homes to quickly expand bed options by temporarily reinstating the Nursing Home Non-Layaway Beds waiver
- Continue authorized CCAP Payments to Closed Child Care Providers when classroom needs to close due to COVID cases or exposure
- Provide Child Care providers with flexibility through temporary suspension of Staff Distribution Requirements
- Consider temporary waivers for medical professionals to address critical staffing needs
- Modifying requirements to maintain long-term services and supports by not requiring signatures for allowable remote assessments and case management visits
- Allowing flexibility for personal care assistance (PCA) service oversight by allowing qualified professionals to provide required in-person oversight via two-way interactive telecommunications
- Allow for verbal signatures on applications for assistance when a county or tribal office is closed, concerns of COVID exposure, or if there isn’t internet access.
He called for the state to follow President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 mandate and testing requirements for many long-term care workers, businesses with more than 100 employees, and teachers and school staff.
He called for consistent school requirements that help keep kids safely learning in the classroom, including parental notification of cases, isolation and quarantine. Additionally, for lawmakers to ensure that districts provide food and other essential services for students when they cannot hold in-person classes.
The GOP has pitched a plan for $250 million in bonus pay with each eligible nurse, first responders, corrections officers, long-term care workers, and hospice providers to pocket $1,200. Eligibility requires the workers couldn’t work from home, received less than one month of unemployment, and worked a minimum of 1,200 hours between March and December of 2020. There is no income cap on the proposal, and an application process would provide bonus pay as soon as the application is approved.
But the DFL said that wasn’t enough. Walz said he was ready to call a special session as soon as lawmakers reach an agreement.
Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said he was confident lawmakers could agree on frontline worker bonus pay but called the growing wish list “not productive” to expediting that payout.
“The growing list of requests from Governor Walz is not productive towards ensuring these dedicated workers receive their bonus pay in a timely manner,” Miller said in a statement. “They took the biggest risk and kept us safe during the pandemic, and they deserve meaningful bonus checks.”