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

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Minnesota House expected to pass COVID-19 economic security legislation

Thursday, May 7, 2020

St. Paul, Minnesota — 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 temporary wage increase for personal care assistants, funding to expand broadband access, and small business loans.

“Minnesotans' economic security has been hit hard during this public health crisis, and we have the resources to help them through the roughest patches of the pandemic,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Today, the Minnesota House is taking an important step to help Minnesotans keep a roof over their heads, preserve their small businesses, facilitate distance learning and telemedicine, and ensure we have the workforce we need to provide care for the vulnerable.”

“Minnesota has the resources we need to address this crisis; we just need the will to act,” said Majority Leader Winkler. “Minnesotans need investments in the things that will help them make it through this crisis and thrive after it, including quality health care, economic security, a good education, and safe and healthy communities. Minnesota can and should invest in Minnesotans to ensure their economic security now and into the future.”

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.