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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Aisha Gomez (DFL)

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House Ways and Means Committee Passes Bill Granting $50 Million to Emergency Community Relief Grant Program

Thursday, May 14, 2020

St. Paul, Minnesota — This afternoon, the House Ways and Means Committee passed HF 4611. The bill, authored in the House by State Representative Aisha Gomez (DFL- Minneapolis) and in the Senate by Senator Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina), creates an emergency community relief grant program that is designed to help individuals who have been harmed by the coronavirus pandemic. The bill is designed to aid those who have slipped through the cracks of other aid programs, and has broad support from over 70 community organizations. 

“Even though there have been a number of aid programs to help Minnesotans who have been impacted by COVID-19, there are far too many people in our communities who don’t have a safety net,” said Rep. Gomez. “This bill recognizes that workers who are undocumented, earn their income from tips, or are considered other ‘non-traditional’ workers, are a critical part of our communities. These workers have been equally impacted by the pandemic, yet their plight has been largely ignored and government aid has been extremely limited. It is critical that we stick to our values and stand by the most vulnerable during this crisis.”

“I am thrilled to collaborate with Rep. Aisha Gomez to provide needed financial support to ensure all Minnesotans are included and protected from the economic impact of COVID-19,” Senator Franzen said.

The bill appropriates $50 million to the Dept. of Human Services (DHS) for this grant program that would, in partnership with community action agencies, award grants of up to $1,500 each.

An individual can qualify for a grant if they are ineligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, if the UI benefits they receive are not commensurate with their actual earnings (e.g. because much of their compensation came from tips), or if they are unlikely to receive federal or state benefits because they are college-aged dependents or were not required to file taxes in the past two years.

The bill provides that grants can be used by individuals for food, rent, emergency household items, utility bills, and similar expenses. Grants should be evenly split between the metro area and Greater Minnesota to the extent practicable. Priority shall be given to community action agencies serving culturally specific populations.

The bill was passed and sent to the general register. Video of the committee meeting can be found here.