Minnesota House and Senate DFL outline COVID-19 economic security agenda

Economic security is the ability for all people in our communities to have their essential needs met with sustainably and dignity. Unfortunately, the very people who are least likely to have economic security before COVID-19 are being hit hardest by our current public health crisis. Despite the challenges and uncertainty ahead of us, the DFL Senate is committed to passing a package of economic security bills to help all Minnesotans come out stronger on the other side of the pandemic.

Every day that goes by without this need much-needed economic security legislation—from housing supports to funding for broadband infrastructure and personal care attendants—there are Minnesotans struggling with how to take care of their families. The Minnesota House and Senate held a press conference this week to outline their COVID-19 economic security agenda. They strongly emphasized that Minnesota cannot afford to stall progress on these bills, and they called on Senate Republicans to work with them on economic security measures to benefit all Minnesotans.

Safe and secure housing. More than 250,000 workers throughout Minnesota make at or below the minimum wage. Many more live paycheck to paycheck. Rent or mortgage payments are undoubtedly one of the largest monthly expenditures in a family’s budget, and COVID-19 has created unprecedented economic insecurity. People are trying to figure out how to survive. A key component of our economic security package is providing emergency housing assistance to keep people in their homes.

The governor’s executive order back in March halted evictions but it does not cancel rent. Without providing housing assistance for Minnesotans we are putting both renters and landlords in significant financial jeopardy. The Republican-controlled Senate and DFL-run House are divided over how much to spend on housing aid and how long to continue the moratorium intended to keep low-income homeowners and renters in their homes. The Senate Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Finance Committee on Monday passed a bill that would provide $30 million for the housing assistance grants and bar mortgage foreclosures and evictions for 60 to 90 days. The House version of the bill would provide $100 million for housing grants and keep the moratorium in effect until Walz declares the public health emergency over. We must pass this legislation. It will protect public health, prevent homelessness, and help Minnesotans stay home and stay safe.

Schools throughout Minnesota operate because of the hard work of thousands of school district employees who do not teach our students, but nonetheless serve a vital function. As schools are rightfully shut down during this global pandemic, our hourly school workers deserve a sense of economic security that will allow them to pay their mortgages, pay their utilities, pay for food, pay their taxes until schools reopen. With no engagement from Senate Republicans, it has been nearly impossible to provide security and stability for thousands of our school workers and that has to change. The Minnesota House is moving this bill forward, but Senate Republicans continue to refuse to address this vitally important issue to provide economic security for all school workers.

Minnesota Family Investment Program Emergency Assistance emergency payments. More than 27,700 families, many of which have young children, will benefit from a proposal to use federal dollars to assist with a one-time payment to help with monthly expenses. Similar to how small businesses received federal assistance to manage monthly expenses, these families that are facing so much economic insecurity, deserve fair treatment. Providing one-time payments of $500 will help thousands of Minnesotans and their families make ends meet and continue moving towards financial stability. Investing in low-income Minnesota families and children is an investment in a stronger future for Minnesota. Now is the time to invest in Minnesotans, not turn our backs on them.

Broadband infrastructure support. E-learning, telemedicine, and doing business remotely has never been more critical — but these services are impossible for thousands of Minnesotans who do not have reliable internet service. DFL senators are committed to ensure all students, families, health care facilities, and businesses have the broadband access they need to succeed. Failing to invest in broadband now means Minnesota students will fall behind in their education, economic opportunities for businesses are disadvantaged, families will fall behind in quality of life, and access to health care is limited.

Personal Care Attendants support. PCAs provide critical services of taking care of some of the most vulnerable in our communities. These workers have been long deserving of a wage increase and we need to support these workers more than ever before. By boosting their wages in our emergency situation, we can support these critical workers and help ensure all Minnesotans will be safe, healthy, and live with dignity.

Despite the challenges and uncertainty ahead of us, Minnesota has an opportunity to pass forward-looking legislation to build a better future and provide economic security for more Minnesotans both during and after our public health emergency.