Minnesota legislators returned to the Capitol on Tuesday to clear a new COVID-19 relief package and negotiate a deal to allow bars and restaurants to sell takeaway wine and beer during the pandemic.
The bill, lawmakers’ fourth relief package since the pandemic started, doesn’t come with a big price tag, but it includes wide-ranging changes to make governing and life easier while most public spaces remain closed. Gov. Tim Walz recently extended his stay-at-home order until May 4.
Among the changes, the bill extends deadlines for court filings and allows local government to operate remotely, while also giving Minnesotans the ability to apply for a marriage license without appearing in person.
It also extends emergency powers to Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm to open temporary health facilities at places such as school gyms or armories, and it lets the state use federal transportation funds to pay for protective gear like masks, gloves and plastic barriers to protect transit workers.
The bill expands coverage of telemedicine during the pandemic and provides medical assistance to uninsured Minnesotans for COVID-19 testing and treatment.
A separate bill would allow restaurants and bars shuttered during the pandemic to sell up to two bottles of wine and 144 ounces of beer with takeaway food orders. Walz has said he supports the idea, but lawmakers were still negotiating the details of the bill.