SAINT PAUL, Minn. — This afternoon, the Minnesota House of Representatives is expected to pass a package of COVID-19 economic security legislation. The bill, HF 1507, contains provisions for housing assistance, a wage increase for personal care assistants, funding to expand broadband access, and small business loans.
“Many people are experiencing economic uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Patty Acomb (DFL – Minnetonka), who supports the bill. “Today, we are taking a step to ensure that Minnesotans can remain in their homes, keep their small businesses running, access education and health care remotely, and care for vulnerable residents. We need to invest in Minnesotans so they can make it through this crisis and thrive after it.”
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.
Finally, the legislation appropriates $55 million to the Small Business Emergency Loan Program at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), which was launched by Executive Order 20-15 from Gov. Walz on March 23. The program’s original $30 million has since been exhausted.