SAINT PAUL – This afternoon, the Minnesota House of Representatives is expected to pass the COVID-19 Economic Security Act, which delivers much-needed relief to thousands of Minnesotans experiencing difficulties during the pandemic. The legislation helps those who are struggling to make their next rent payment, students who depend on broadband access to connect to their schools and teachers, the smallest businesses that have been denied any financial assistance, and PCAs who continue to provide care during this pandemic.
“Minnesotans – including people who are struggling to pay rent, vulnerable individuals who rely on PCA services, and small business owners with bills piling up – deserve a chance to make it through this crisis,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester). “The road ahead is difficult, but the investments we’re making today will improve our outlook and give people a better opportunity to succeed.”
Minnesota’s personal care assistants (PCA) serve Minnesotans with disabilities, 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 also 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.
The COVID-19 Economic Security Act includes $100 million in assistance for Minnesota renters, homeowners, and landlords. In addition to support for rent and mortgages, qualified applicants can get 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.
The legislation 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.
A nonpartisan summary of the legislation can be accessed here. The bill directs funding to come from the state’s $1.87 billion share of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act if available.