MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The Minnesota Legislature was ready Thursday to pass a financial aid package to help soften the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic that has sickened more than 300 people and claimed two lives in the state.
The Minnesota Department of Health said Thursday that COVID-19's second death in the state was a Ramsey County patient who, as the first fatal case, was 80 years old. The state's confirmed case count rose Thursday to 346, an increase from 59 from the previous day, though authorities warn that the actual total of people with the disease is likely much higher because many do not qualify for the tests.
The legislative proposals were drafted through private conference calls to keep legislators at risk of contracting the disease, and were included in a large bill to minimize the number of votes that must be taken. Improvised House and Senate procedures to maintain social distancing mean that lawmakers have to take turns going up to the voting room or speaking and waiting elsewhere in the Capitol complex until their turn comes.
The bill had not been released late Thursday morning because lawmakers and staff were still reviewing it, so the content of the final package was not yet public.
But the measures that were on the table in private conversations included Governor Tim Walz's proposal for $ 356 million in supplemental funds for the COVID-19 fight. Another would allow employees who receive paid leave to use it to cover absences arising from COVID-19. Others included funds for child care providers that remain open to serve families of health and emergency workers, one-time payments of $ 500 to working poor families in the Minnesota Family Investment Program and money for food shelves.
Walz, who signed a stay-at-home order for Minnesota residents that goes into effect on Friday night, planned to give an update on the state's efforts in a conference call with journalists Thursday afternoon.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that disappear within two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia or death.
Minnesota will also receive money as part of the $ 2.2 billion congressional aid package that the United States Senate approved on Wednesday night and that the House is expected to approve on Friday. The bill includes nearly $ 2.2 billion for the state as part of a $ 150 billion stimulus package for state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"With this legislation, families will see direct financial aid, local businesses will find a lifeguard, and our heroic healthcare workers will know that we stand behind them," US Democratic Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota said in a statement.
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