What was requested initially ended up being cut in half. Still, it would help provide a roof over the head of many Minnesotans.
Originally, Rep. Michael Howard (DFL-Richfield) sought $100 million for the Family Homeless and Prevention Program in the current fiscal year that ends June 30.
On a 73-50 vote Thursday, the House passed HF1440, as amended, which would appropriate $50 million for the program. The bill now heads to the Senate.
Howard says the program works and has but one fault: funding.
“We have never funded this program at a level anywhere near commensurate with its need,” he said. “They release these FHPAP dollars quarterly and in just the first few days, those funds are all gone.”
Howard questioned how students can learn in school if they’re hungry or don’t know where they’re going to sleep at night.
“Last year, over 20,000 Minnesotans were evicted. It is truly a statewide problem,” Howard said. “Pipestone, Grant, Olmsted, Clay, Wadena, Chippewa, Roseau, Jackson and Yellow Medicine County all have seen an over 100% increase in evictions compared to pre-pandemic levels.”
The one-time appropriation would go to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to fund the program’s supportive and financial assistance to families, youth and individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless. Direct financial assistance may include covering rent, utility payments or other housing costs.
By June 30, 2024, the bill would require the agency to have “made best efforts” to spend the appropriation.
Typically, grants may not be used to pay for more than 24 months of emergency rental assistance, but the bill would allow an exception for qualified families.
Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) expressed concerns about rental assistance lasting as long as 48 months, as well as setting a precedent for extra appropriations in the future.