Minnesota House, Senate pass $200M bill funding coronavirus response

The Minnesota House and Senate unanimously passed that seeks to grant $200 million to healthcare providers. 

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(The Center Square) – The Minnesota House and Senate unanimously passed a bill in the early hours Tuesday that seeks to grant $200 million to healthcare providers.

The bill was passed around 3 a.m. In the meantime, the state’s number of positive cases of the novel coronavirus reached 60.

House File 3980/Senate File 4334 will be sent to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz.

“I am fully committed to supporting the people and entities who have given us nation-leading healthcare,” bill sponsor Sen. Michelle Benson, R- Ham Lake, said in a statement. “Just as they prioritize caring for Minnesotans, I will prioritize supporting them.”

The bill would allocate $50 million to the state’s public health response contingency account, which could be used to fund eligible providers.

The remaining $150 million would establish a new healthcare response fund in the state treasury. The Minnesota Department of Health could make grants to eligible providers, which include hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes, paramedics and other healthcare facilities.

The money could be used for the following, according to a House summary.

  • establishment and operation of temporary sites to provide testing services, treatment beds, or to isolate or quarantine affected individuals
  • staff overtime and hiring additional staff, staff training and orientation
  • purchasing consumable protective or treatment supplies and equipment to protect or treat staff, visitors and patients
  • development and implementation of screening and testing procedures
  • additional emergency transportation of patients
  • temporary information technology and systems costs to support patient triage, screening and telemedicine activities
  • purchasing replacement parts or filters for medical equipment
  • specialty cleaning supplies
  • expenses related to the isolation or quarantine of staff (not including wages)

Grants are contingent upon providers not billing uninsured patients for COVID-19 related treatment.

Any money not spent combating COVID-19 would be returned to the General Fund.

“While each of us is working as hard as we can to decrease the risk of transmission, we must ensure our health care providers have the resources they need to take care of Minnesotans who may be afflicted with COVID-19,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D- Brooklyn Park, said in a statement.

“These investments are critical to addressing this pandemic and making sure Minnesotans who get sick get the care they need.”

The money can only be spent on COVID-19 related costs.

The House and Senate will meet if called upon through April 14, and will only pursue legislation if agreed upon by House and Senate leaders, according to a press release.

Walz last week signed a $21 million bill that also funded a COVID-19 response.

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