This year has been one we’d all love to put in the rearview mirror as soon as possible. Unfortunately, COVID-19 doesn’t care what the calendar displays. While the page is set to turn to 2021, people all across our state are still experiencing tremendous difficulties that will still be there on Jan. 1.

Despite the pain and struggle many Minnesotans feel, there are bright spots on the horizon that give us reason to be hopeful and encourage us all to work toward a stronger future.

When the 2021 legislative session begins, steps to overcome the pandemic will be at the forefront. As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our state, we will keep working to protect Minnesotans to minimize harm.

The first doses of the COVID vaccine have now been distributed. Minnesota has a plan in place to ensure the vaccine is distributed with the goal of maximizing impact equitably and with transparency. As part of this plan, health care workers and long-term-care residents receive the vaccine first. Due to a limited initial supply, it might be a few months before the vaccine is made available to everyone. But light is finally emerging at the end of a very dark tunnel.

In addition to mitigating COVID’s harm to people’s physical health and well-being, lawmakers will be tasked with helping Minnesotans pick up the pieces from the economic turmoil that this virus caused. Without a doubt, Main Street small businesses, workers, and families have a tough road ahead toward financial recovery. At the Capitol, we must work together to create bright spots to ensure our communities can remain vibrant and strong.

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These important efforts must all be undertaken while we construct a new two-year state budget. Historically, when our state has faced difficult budget situations, certain factions have used this as a scapegoat to draw lines in the sand, telling us what we can’t do. This thinking must be rejected.

Instead, we must thoughtfully consider the vision we want for our state and work toward it. We all deserve affordable, quality health care. We all deserve the ability for our children to reach their full potential, including the ability to attend world-class schools. We all deserve economic security with good-paying jobs and benefits which support our families, like paid family and medical leave.

A lot of us are blessed to experience these already, but that’s not true for everyone. Despite how well many folks were doing when things were “normal,” this past year exposed some deep cracks and inequities in our state. It’s time to intentionally address the gaps too many Minnesotans face regarding education, the criminal justice system, health care, economic opportunity, and so many other areas, so we can build back better — for everyone.

To get through this, we must continue doing our part as individuals to keep one another healthy by following precautions like mask-wearing and social-distancing. As a state government, we will need to do our part by ensuring our state works better for all of us, no matter where we live, what we look like, what background we come from, or how we make a living.

There have been roadblocks on the path behind us just as there will be on the road ahead. Despite these, deep down, I know we have the resiliency necessary to not just survive this unmatched crisis but to emerge healthy and successful. With an open door and an open ear to my Duluth neighbors, I look forward to the work ahead as Minnesota rises to the occasion — together.

Rep. Liz Olson of Duluth is the DFL representative of Minnesota House District 7B. She is also the House majority whip and deputy majority leader. She can be reached at rep.liz.olson@house.mn or 651-296-4246. She wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune at the invitation of the Opinion page.