The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a package of COVID-19 economic security legislation on Thursday afternoon.
The bill contains provisions for housing assistance, a temporary wage increase for personal care assistants, funding to expand broadband access, and small business loans.
“We need to invest in Minnesotans so they can make it through this public health crisis,” said Rep. John Persell (DFL – Bemidji), who supports the bill.
“Today, we took an important step to help Minnesotans keep a roof over their heads, preserve their small businesses, access distance learning and telemedicine, and continue caring for vulnerable residents.”
The legislation includes $100 million in assistance for Minnesota renters, homeowners, and landlords. In addition to support for rent and mortgages, qualified applicants can receive help paying utility bills and property taxes. The proposal has received broad support, ranging from the Homes for All Coalition, representing 250 Minnesota housing organizations, to the Minnesota Multi-Housing Association, which represents property management companies throughout the state.
Minnesota’s personal care assistants (PCA) serve Minnesotans with disabilities, our seniors, and other vulnerable populations. The bill delivers a 15 percent temporary rate increase for personal care assistance services during the COVID-19 pandemic and makes other program modifications to help ensure vulnerable Minnesotans get the care they need. In addition to the 15 percent rate increase, PCAs can now be paid for 310 hours of services per month, up from 275. The bill allows a parent or legal guardian of a minor PCA recipient, or a spouse of a PCA recipient, to earn wages for providing PCA services during the peacetime emergency.
HF 1507 invests $15 million in a new Distance Learning Broadband Access Grant Program to provide students with the equipment necessary to access learning materials on the internet and reimburse school districts for costs to provide broadband access. It also invests $10 million in the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program to expand high-speed broadband, with the funding targeted to unserved areas. Finally, it invests $2 million in the new Telemedicine Equipment Reimbursement Grant Program to reimburse health care providers and counties that purchase and install telemedicine equipment to provide COVID-19-related health care services.
The legislation includes an additional $55 million to the small business emergency loan program at Minnesota DEED. The program’s original $30 million has since been exhausted.