Mike Moen

MINNEAPOLIS — Despite the early arrival of snowy weather in Minnesota, supporters of public-works projects are looking forward to groundbreakings and other facets of a new statewide bonding bill. They say it will provide job relief and protections as the pandemic continues.

The Legislature approved the $1.9 billion plan last week after months of tense negotiations. It covers transportation improvements, water-treatment plant upgrades and other work.

Megan Dayton, statewide president of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, said there’s also money to shore up funding deficits for Department of Human Services workers who provide direct care.

“It keeps our members safe while they’re at work,” she said. “It gives them COVID testing, PPE protection while they’re at work, and it also continues the care for the most vulnerable Minnesotans.”

There’s also temporary job protections for workers at smaller state prisons in Togo and Willow River. Those facilities were slated for closure, but the package extends funding through next June.

Dayton noted that the state still is under a hiring freeze, and many workers are performing extra duties in stressful situations — so she said extra help for those employees needs to be considered.

The bill also sets aside $116 million for affordable housing. Rhonda Otteson, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, said a number of shovel-ready development projects have been waiting on the funding.

As more people lose their homes during the crisis, she said, getting new housing started can soften the blow, “whether it’s supportive housing for people maybe transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing, or for people who are working in the community and at risk of losing their housing because they’re paying too much.”

Outside of the affordable-housing funding, Otteson said, homeless shelters need long-term investments from the state. She cited facilities across Minnesota in dire need of repairs and upgrades, as well as help with operational expenses.

The text of the bill is online at revisor.mn.gov.