Legislature passes homelessness and housing support package

The Legislature passed over $32 million in funding this week to support housing and shelter options for low-income Minnesotans and Minnesotans experiencing homelessness in response to COVID-19. In the bill, $5.53 million will be used to support group homes in the Housing Support program through a temporary 15% rate increase, and $26.53 million in funding will go to emergency services grants for organizations who provide shelter and services to people experiencing homelessness.

Housing Support is a state funded program that provides room and board costs for adults with low incomes who have a disability or are aged 65 or older and are at risk of institutional placement or homelessness. More than 20,000 Minnesotans receive Housing Support annually; some recipients who have complex needs receive additional services like health supervision and tenancy or employment supports. Many settings that receive Housing Support payments are already taking out loans to maintain their current capacity as their costs increase from COVID-19. These rate increases will last three months and will allow them to make up for those additional expenses.

Increases in emergency services grants will be critical for organizations who provide services to populations experiencing homelessness as they make significant changes to daily operations in response to this pandemic. These grants can be used to purchase and provide additional shelter or isolation space, purchase cleaning and sanitary equipment, or add extra staff to accommodate health and safety guidelines.

The rapid closures of public spaces and the congregate nature of most emergency shelters put homeless populations at extreme risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. As we navigate this uncertain time, Senate DFLers are committed to identifying solutions to protect the health and safety of our most vulnerable Minnesotans and those who work with them. (HF 4531)