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At the Capitol: Vaccine Rollout Remains Top Priority for Lawmakers

As March begins, state health officials reported a new vaccine milestone. As of March 2, 53% of Minnesota seniors received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Building off this announcement, Governor Tim Walz stated that his administration will not move on from the current vaccine distribution phase until 70% of Minnesotan’s ages 65 and over have been fully vaccinated. With the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine arriving in Minnesota this week, Walz believes the state can reach the 70% senior benchmark by April. Here is what you need to know about what’s happening at the Capitol:

This Week
On Tuesday, the House had a hearing in the Human Services Finance and Policy committee on H.F. 1432 that makes clarifying changes to an existing section of law surrounding reporting of maltreatment towards vulnerable adults. Following several short testimonies from stakeholders affected by the bill, it passed out of the committee and now heads to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law committee for review. We hope to see eventual passage of the bill to bring further protection to vulnerable seniors. 

Last Week
Last week on Friday, state budget officials released the February Forecast, and analysis of Minnesota’s economic health. An initial analysis of the data indicates that Minnesota is facing a much rosier budget outlook than what was predicted just three months ago. Higher revenues, lower than predicted state spending and significant actions by the federal government mean the state is now looking at a $1.6 billion budget surplus for fiscal years 2022-23. The improved budget forecast may take pressure off lawmakers to make significant program cuts to health and human services and creates a better opportunity to make the case for investments to assist providers and to address workforce needs.

What to Watch
On Wednesday, the Senate Long-Term Care and Aging Committee’s weekly hearing on the progress of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Committee Chair Senator Housley has again invited Minnesota Department of Health officials to provide an update on the distribution of the vaccine, in particular to the state’s seniors.

Additionally, on Wednesday, the House Labor, Industry, Veterans, and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee will be meeting to conduct a final review of H.F. 41/S.F. 331, a bill to provide COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave to health care employees excluded from the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. While we are supportive of adequate paid-time off for essential workers, there are concerns about the cost burden the proposal will place on senior care providers due to a lack of appropriated funding in the bill and the administrative burden resulting from the retroactive application of the legislation to March 13, 2020.

What’s Ahead
In less than two weeks, LeadingAge will host its Week at the Capitol! The week begins on March 15 and includes opportunities to virtually meet with your colleagues, connect with experts from the field, and make your voice known in meetings with your lawmakers. For more information, visit the event registration page. Registration closes on March 6 so make sure to reserve your spot today! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to Matt Steele, Director of Government Affairs.

Each week during the legislative session, follow Advantage for regular updates about what’s happening at the Capitol.

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