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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL)

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House and Senate DFL outline COVID-19 economic security agenda

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

St. Paul, Minnesota — Today, House and Senate DFL leaders and legislators outlined their economic security agenda to assist Minnesotans during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Many of the proposals are moving forward in the DFL-led House, but are stalled in the Republican-led Senate.

“Minnesotans want a good life and a better future for our families and for our neighbors,” said Speaker Hortman. “DFLers are working to ensure the health and economic well-being of Minnesotans during this public health emergency. Despite the challenges and uncertainty ahead of us, we have an opportunity to pass forward-looking legislation in order to build a better future for all Minnesotans both during and after this crisis.”

“Minnesotans deserve economic security whether we are in a public health crisis or not, and right now those least likely to have it are being hit the hardest,” said Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent. “Families and communities across the state are struggling during this public health emergency. DFLers are looking out for the health and economic well-being of Minnesotans now and into the future, because Minnesotans shouldn’t have to pick between one or the other.”

In response to the pandemic, House and Senate DFLers are focused on the following priorities:

  • Keeping Minnesotans safe in their homes with a $100 million investment in housing assistance
  • Providing economic security for our education professionals by ensuring full pay for our hourly school employees
  • Providing economic security for the personal care assistants who care for vulnerable Minnesotans through a well-deserved and long-overdue wage increase
  • Keeping Minnesotans connected by ensuring all Minnesotans have access to the broadband they need to go online
  • Helping families make ends meet by using available federal funding to boost payments for low-income working Minnesotans in the Minnesota Family Investment Program

“Minnesotans are looking for help in this crisis in whatever way possible,”said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “We have the resources we need to address this crisis; we just need the will to act. The severity of the COVID crisis has renewed our commitment in building a Minnesota that works better for everyone by investing in our people, in our state, and in a better future for all of us.”

On Monday, the House Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division approved legislation to increase funding for high-speed broadband internet across the state. The bill invests $10 million in the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program to expand high-speed broadband. It also invests $8 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. 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.

Today, the House Ways & Means Committee will consider legislation that provides for compensation for hourly school employees and allows entities that contract with schools to provide services such as school bus operators to be reimbursed for paying their employees, for changes in school employment practices as a result of COVID-19 related school closures, and the conversion to distance learning programs. The companion bill in the Republican-led Senate has not moved forward.

On Friday, the House Ways & Means Committee will hear legislation allocating $100 million to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) to assist thousands of Minnesota renters and homeowners with their monthly payments. Senate Republicans continue to insist on only one-third of the funding and the ability for landlords to evict their unemployed tenants, leaving them with nowhere to go.

Ways & Means will also consider HF 168, which delivers a 15 percent temporary rate increase for personal care assistance (PCA) services during the COVID-19 pandemic and makes other program modifications.

DFL legislators are also working on legislation to provide a one-time, $500 supplemental payment for individuals enrolled in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) or Diversionary Work Program (DWP). MFIP helps families with children meet their basic needs while helping parents move to financial stability through work.