Minnesota State Capitol

Minnesota State Capitol.

You probably know Gov. Tim Walz has proclaimed a peacetime emergency and ordered K-12 public schools, restaurants and other businesses to close or limit their services during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some of the other temporary changes state government has made.

Unemployment benefits expanded

The state has made unemployment benefits available to those who have lost work because of the pandemic and related executive orders, such as the business closures. There’s also no waiting period.

Applicants can receive about half of their average weekly wage up to $740 maximum, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Apply online at uimn.org. You’ll need to provide your recent work history and other personal information.

Evictions suspended

An executive order from the governor on March 23 suspended eviction procedures during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency, though Walz added that tenants who can continue to pay rent should do so.

“Loss of housing is catastrophic at any time, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, this loss endangers the health and well-being of all Minnesotans,” the governor’s office wrote in the announcement.

The online complaint form is available on the state attorney general’s website, ag.state.mn.us.

Income tax extension

Federal and state tax returns for 2019 income are now due July 15 instead of April.

MNsure open enrollment

A 30-day special enrollment period for MNsure, the state’s marketplace for individual and family health insurance policies, began March 23. Uninsured residents can shop for different levels of coverage at different premiums and apply for help paying those premiums based on income.

People who qualify for Medicaid, recently lost their job’s coverage or met other criteria are eligible for the marketplace year-round, but otherwise people generally could sign up only during the normal open enrollment period near the end of the year.

“We want to make sure every Minnesotan has the security of health insurance to ensure they can get the care they need if they contract this serious illness,” MNsure CEO Nate Clark said in a written statement.

Plans and more information are at mnsure.org. For questions, the MNsure Contact Center is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 651-539-2099.

Business loans available

Small businesses and nonprofits in Minnesota are eligible to apply for low-interest disaster assistance loans through the Small Business Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor announced March 21.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million to help overcome temporary revenue losses. Applicants have to show they can repay the loan and might need to provide collateral, according to the administration’s website.

Businesses can apply online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has also created a no-interest emergency loan program for businesses closed under governor orders during the pandemic.

The loans will be between $2,500 and $35,000 for qualifying small businesses and 50% forgivable, according to the department’s website. The department said small businesses should send questions about this emergency loan program to ELP@state.mn.us, and applications could be available this week.

Elective health procedures postponed

Walz has ordered health care providers to postpone elective procedures, meaning surgeries and other procedures that can be delayed without “undue risk” to a patient’s health.

The move is to conserve medical equipment and other resources for emergencies, including severe coronavirus cases, the governor said. The restrictions also apply to veterinary procedures.

Surgeries and procedures that prevent the loss of life, permanent dysfunction of part of the body or the risk of metastasis or progression for non-COVID-19 patients shouldn’t be postponed, according to the state.

In the context of veterinary medicine, procedures addressing threats to public health, the owner or the animal could also proceed.

Price-gouging banned

No one may sell food, fuel, housing, health care supplies or other essential goods and services for excessive prices, according to another executive order.

Excessive prices can mean far exceeding others offering the same good or service or jumping by 20% or more from before the peacetime emergency began.

The online complaint form is available on the state attorney general’s website, ag.state.mn.us.

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