First, I want to remind you that I’m hosting a town hall next week. It’s dedicated to mental health and steps we can take to expand access to affordable health care and support. If you join us at Podvin Park Pavilion on Tuesday, September 14 at 6 p.m., you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, share ideas and feedback, and hear from a panel of experts. I hope to see you there!
All Minnesotans deserve to have a safe and affordable place to call home. In this week’s update, I’m going to share information about the Housing budget legislators passed a few months ago.
With thousands of people unable or struggling to pay rent because of COVID-19, we knew our budget needed to ensure renters could keep a roof over their heads and landlords could be made whole. We created an “off-ramp” to give Minnesotans time to apply for housing assistance and provide more stability for renters and landlords as the eviction moratorium comes to an end.
Our budget contains funds to maintain existing affordable housing and to create more for seniors and people experiencing homelessness. It increases funding for a variety of programs, including the Homeownership Assistance Fund, the Workforce and Affordable Homeownership and Development Program, and the Local Housing Trust Fund. It also increases support for individuals and families who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness. We invested in county-level efforts to prevent homelessness, increased funding for emergency shelters and services, and created a Shelter Task Force to strengthen the shelter system.
We have more work to do, but the investments we made this year will help Minnesotans make it through the pandemic and find affordable housing in their community. I’ll continue working on this critical issue next session.
Thanks to tax cuts my colleagues and I secured for people who received unemployment insurance benefits and federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans last year, more than 540,000 Minnesotans are eligible for a refund. Individual income tax returns were due before the end of the legislative session, when we approved the tax cuts, but the Minnesota Department of Revenue has developed a system to adjust impacted returns on their end. As a result, most people won’t have to file amended returns, and the agency will be able to deliver refunds more quickly.
The Department of Revenue will begin adjusting income tax returns and delivering refunds next week. They’ll start at a rate of about 1,000 returns per week and hope to process 50,000 returns a week by late October. You can find more details here.
Since September is Hunger Action Month, I’m going to highlight our local food shelves this week. The White Bear Area Food Shelf, which was founded in 1977, provides food to more than 1,800 families a month. In addition to providing groceries directly to Minnesotans in need, the food shelf hosts free farmer’s markets, supports school food pantries, and helps connect people to a variety of resources.
The Hugo Good Neighbors Food Shelf (HGNFS) serves more than 125 households a month. Founded in 2009, this organization allows people to shop for their specific needs instead of providing pre-packaged bags of groceries. HGNFS has outgrown their current space, and they’re hoping to build a new facility so they can continue meeting the needs of our growing community.
If you’d like to support these food shelves and their mission to end housing insecurity in our community, please visit whitebearfoodshelf.org and hugofoodshelf.org for information about volunteer opportunities and donations.
Many Faces of the White Bear Lake Area, a group I highlighted a few weeks ago, is hosting a series of conversations about racism and how to eliminate it in our community. The fourth and final event will take place on Thursday, September 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Participants will work together to develop action steps to help create a more welcoming and inclusive community. You can learn more and register for the event here.
Please continue sharing your questions, ideas, and feedback. I always appreciate hearing from community members! You can reach me by email at email@example.com or call (651) 296-3018.