The Minnesota House of Representatives approved 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 (PCA), funding to expand broadband access, and small business loans. State Representative Jeff Brand (DFL – St. Peter) voted in favor of the bill.
“In order for Minnesota to remain strong during and after this pandemic, we need to ensure our communities are properly supported,” said Rep. Brand. “For many, it’s difficult to shelter in place when facing housing insecurity, or work and study from home without proper broadband – you’ll see measures to address that in this bill. The PCAs that look after our most vulnerable have needed raises for a long time, and the least we can do is increase their wages while we deal with COVID-19. We all want the day where our local businesses can fully open up again, but that’s not going to be as easy as flipping a switch. Our small businesses need help in the meantime, and this bill delivers it to them. I’m incredibly proud to support this bill, and I hope the Senate can do the same.”
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.