Jeanne Poppe: Reflections on the 2019-2020 Legislature
The Minnesota Legislature met in December to approve new assistance for workers and small businesses that are sacrificing the most to keep us safe and healthy. The pandemic has not impacted our economy equally, and I’m pleased that lawmakers put politics aside and reached bipartisan consensus to help restaurants, bars, and other Main Street businesses hardest hit. It includes a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits and direct payments of up to $45,000 for eligible businesses.
Not long after state lawmakers approved this new assistance, the federal government moved forward on a $900 billion package that includes stronger unemployment benefits for Americans who have lost their jobs, loans for businesses via the Paycheck Protection Program, and direct cash payments of $600 to individuals and families with children. Put together with state assistance and the rollout of vaccines, I believe we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic.
As I reflect on the past two years, I take great pride in our collective accomplishments and want to thank you for all of your letters, emails, phone calls, and visits. The 2019-2020 session will be remembered most for the swift and bipartisan actions lawmakers took to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included the distribution of federal CARES Act dollars to counties and local governments, purchase of personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare providers, and funding for Minnesota to massively scale up our testing capabilities.
I am especially proud of serving as the Chair for the Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Committee, where we took meaningful actions to improve the livelihoods of family farms and our ag economy across our state.
When session began, lawmakers provided assistance to farms that experienced collapsed roofs and property damage due to extreme weather events. We created the Dairy Assistance, Investment, and Relief Initiative (DAIRI) to help small- and medium-sized dairy operations weather historically low commodity prices. Our investment in the Ag Innovation Campus in Crookston will be on the leading edge of research and advancement of soybean production.
Locally, we secured state investments in flood mitigation and funding toward a new wastewater treatment plant for Austin so families and businesses can depend on clean water. This is the result of cooperation and teamwork between the state, our local officials, and residents.
As you know, I will not return to the Legislature for the 2021-2022 session. Being your representative and an advocate for our communities over the past 16 years has been the honor of a lifetime. We have accomplished so much and we’ve done so by working together. Historic challenges remain for workers, families, and businesses at this time, and Minnesotans can be confident that our state government will be a responsive, accessible partner in building back better.