ST. PAUL — Leaders of the Minnesota Legislature late Tuesday, March 24, announced that they would call lawmakers back into session on Thursday to take up $356 million in proposed funding to address the coronavirus pandemic and potential policy changes.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, in a statement said they would call most members back to the Capitol to take up the funding request from the governor's office along with additional proposals aimed at cushioning the economic of the outbreak on Minnesotans.

Lawmakers for a week have been on recess as COVID-19, the illness stemming from the coronavirus spread across Minnesota. On Tuesday, state health officials reported the number of total cases in the state had grown to 262 and 15 were hospitalized.

"We are continuing to work closely with the Walz administration on urgent COVID-19 matters to protect the health and well-being of Minnesotans," Gazelka and Hortman said. "We will publicly release details on specific legislation on the House and Senate websites as soon as we can. As we convene, we will do so in accordance with guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health to keep members, staff, and the public safe.”

Gov. Tim Walz on Monday proposed $356 million in additional state funding for child care centers, families struggling financially through the Minnesota Family Investment Program, veterans, food shelves, small business loans and Minnesotans without homes. But he needs legislative approval to greenlight that appropriation.

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"We think this will be a bridge to get folks through the next few weeks," Walz said.

Legislative leaders on Tuesday came under fire from some advocacy groups and proponents of transparency after they said they'd held telephonic "informal working group" meetings in the last several days to take up proposals that they planned to roll into an omnibus policy and spending bill. The meetings were not publicly noticed and recordings of the discussions were not kept.

Hortman earlier in the day said House lawmakers were working to improve public access to the discussions and encouraged Minnesotans to reach out to their legislators with their input.

The House is set to meet Thursday at noon while the Senate will meet Thursday beginning at 2 p.m. Additional information about what lawmakers are set to consider can be viewed at https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/covid-19/.

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