Murphy talks child care, veterans issues in southwest MN
State legislator makes stop in Marshall on Thursday
MARSHALL — Communities across Minnesota may differ, but they’re facing a lot of the same problems, state Sen. Erin Murphy said. The list ranged from infrastructure problems to housing and childcare needs, she said.
On a visit to southwest Minnesota on Thursday, Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said she was hoping to hear how local communities were working to face those issues.
“I think the state should be a partner to our communities to make sure that, if you have a good idea, that we’re working with you to solve that,” she said. As chair of the State and Local Government and Veterans Committee in the Minnesota Senate, Murphy said she wanted to meet with local elected officials.
Murphy made stops in Marshall and Granite Falls, as well as Luverne, where she visited the Minnesota Veterans Home. In Marshall, she spoke with Mayor Bob Byrnes on topics like Local Government Aid and higher education.
“The attention that the Legislature gave to Local Government Aid, especially this past year, really helped communities across greater Minnesota,” Byrnes said. Increased LGA has helped communities control rising costs that impact property taxes, he said.
Byrnes said higher education opportunities were also important as a way to develop a future workforce and encourage young people to stay in the region.
Murphy said part of what makes thriving communities is resources like childcare and housing, which help make it possible for people to go to work. Murphy said there had been an effort to build a coalition of Minnesotans to address problems like access to childcare across the state.
“We did put a lot of money into childcare in this session, in this budget — over a billion dollars. But we have a lot of work to do,” she said.
Communities in different parts of Minnesota have found different ways to invest in childcare, Murphy said.
“I hear people talk about the need for infrastructure investments,” she said. Other communities were trying to find ways to keep childcare workers. In Grand Marais, federal funding was used to help subsidize pay increases for childcare workers, she said. “So I think it’s going to take additional resources, and I think it’s got to be flexible so that local communities can solve the problem in the best way they can, given their circumstances.”
Murphy said she also spent time discussing veterans’ issues during her visit to Luverne.
“I made a commitment that I will get to all the veterans’ homes this year,” she said. “In each of these vets’ homes visits, we’ve done essentially a town hall with staff and veterans. We did that this morning with Senator Bill Weber.”
Murphy said the town hall was a chance to hear from veterans as well as the people who care for them, from maintenance workers to nurses and administrators.
Veterans homes in Minnesota are facing the same challenges as other care facilities, she said.
“They are, like everybody else, feeling the experiences of a workforce shortage. So in some places, there are waiting lists for veterans to get a placement.”
Murphy said staff in Luverne talked about the need for incentives to retain care workers. There will also be other challenges to provide Minnesota veterans with needed health care.
“We’ve done, I think, a pretty good job in terms of veterans and homelessness, but when I think about issues ahead, we have an aging population,” she said. There will be a need for care for dementia, PTSD, and mental health care, she said.
Murphy said this year, Minnesota legislators looked at the quality of care at state veterans homes.
“We had a hearing about that during the session, and then put money into the budget to make sure the Department of Veterans Affairs could pull together a group of experts to make sure that what we’re doing in those vets’ homes is meeting the needs of the veterans. And that work is underway,” she said.
Nursing shortages are a widespread problem in health care, Murphy said.
“We have plenty of licenses nurses in the state of Minnesota, but we don’t have enough of them working in our facilities or hospitals,” she said. “I continue to do work on that to make sure that we are funding education for the nurses that are coming in. But I continue to argue that I think we have to pay attention to the working conditions, so that our nurses want to stay at the bedside.”