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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Athena Hollins (DFL)

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House POCI Caucus lawmakers announce new leadership and identify Education, Housing, and Public Safety for key priorities this year

Thursday, January 27, 2022

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, members of the House POCI (People of Color and Indigenous) Caucus announced new co-chairs Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL – Minneapolis) and Rep. Athena Hollins (DFL – Saint Paul) and their priorities going into the 2022 session. POCI communities across the state have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic, and have historically struggled to see adequate investment in Minnesota. Now, with more members of color in the legislature than ever before, the POCI Caucus urges House and Senate leaders to use the $7.7 billion surplus to address these systemic disparities.

“We know that the pandemic only highlighted the crises in housing, education, and public safety for Black and Brown Minnesotans,” said Co-Chair Esther Agbaje. “This unprecedented surplus means these communities can no longer be ignored. We plan to work with our partners to invest in our communities to the benefit of all Minnesotans.”

Minnesota continues to have some of the worst racial disparities in student outcomes in school. Significant investment into majority-POCI public schools is needed, as well as investment into Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and after-school programs. The POCI Caucus also fights for affordable and accessible college.

“We shouldn’t have one poor school in Minnesota. The constant educational disparities that we’ve suffered here are the product of decades of redlining and segregation. Our students deserve better,” said Rep. Hodan Hassan (DFL-Minneapolis). “The POCI Caucus will be working to fund every single school, so that we can have less-stressed, better-paid teachers, with better materials, and less students per classroom. We also need to see more affordable and accessible college. We need strong access to four-year degrees. People with those degrees are the ones who command decision making in our society.”

The POCI Caucus will address home ownership issues for their communities. Owning a house is key to creating generational wealth, and that opportunity has been closed to many POCI families because of systemic racist policies like redlining. The POCI Caucus is prioritizing affordable and accessible housing to spur economic growth for their communities, as well as increase access to stable housing and shelter for those experiencing homelessness. Black Minnesotans make up 39% of adults experiencing homelessness, but only 5% of adults statewide. They urge leadership in both legislative bodies to include a large portion of surplus dollars to these efforts. 

“Housing security is critical to living a good life in Minnesota. If we want to break the cycle of poverty within our communities, we need to see the significant investment that can lead to homeownership,” said Rep. Kaohly Her (DFL-St. Paul). “This work will set our next generation up for success. Minnesota has the highest disparities in home ownership in the nation, with 76% of white households owning a home, and less than 23% of Black households owning a home. When you’re worried about where your family is going to be living in a month, it’s an uphill battle to plan for your own success, much less plan for the next generation. We need to fix the system so that our communities can focus less on ‘surviving’ and more on ‘thriving.’” 

The POCI Caucus will also prioritize the safety of Black and Brown Minnesotans. Rep. Frazier’s Public Safety Innovation Package is a holistic solution to problems that everyone in our state is experiencing. Backed with non-partisan research, this package invests $100 million dollars into Public Safety solutions that would help our communities by funding crime investigators, community policing initiatives, and crime prevention non-profits. 

“Legislative officials promised to do something after the murder of George Floyd, and this is a bill they should all support,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope). “This bill provides non-partisan solutions to the rising crime rate and invests more money than ever before in our public safety system. We need to restore peace and trust in our communities, and this bill is right for our officers and our civilians.”

"The POCI Caucus is ready to stand together as a multi-racial coalition to fight for the policies and investments that are desperately needed by all of our communities," said Co-Chair Athena Hollins. “You’ll be hearing from us this session as legislation moves forward.”

The POCI Caucus will focus on developing legislation with a racial equity lens that supports and lifts up working families across the state. The legislative session begins Monday, Jan. 31, 2022.