Walz announces $15M in federal funds to support COVID-19 preparedness in Minnesota homeless shelters

Minnesota is set to use $15 million in federal funds to improve COVID-19 prevention measures at emergency shelters around the state, Gov. Tim Walz announced on Wednesday.

The allocation will support the state’s Emergency Services Program grants, which are awarded to organizations that provide shelter and essential services to people who are experiencing homelessness. The money comes from the pool of $500 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds state leaders agreed to funnel into state spending for COVID-19 response.

“Every Minnesotan deserves a safe, warm place to sleep at night, especially as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” Walz said in a statement. “Minnesota’s shelters save lives and have been critical to our state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding will help ensure that as we approach our harsh winter months, Minnesota’s shelters are safe and available to Minnesotans who need them.”

The $15 million announced on Wednesday will be spent entirely on programs, settings and services that help existing shelters mitigate the transmission of disease.

Those improvements include physical modifications that reduce transmission risks and allow for more social distance; improved air filtration systems; changes to traffic flow in high-volume areas; and generally creating or acquiring spaces that are better equipped to operate in the context of an infectious disease.

In total, Minnesota received an $8.5 billion allocation from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan — $2.13 billion for local governments, $2.83 billion for the state government and $3.5 billion for existing federally funded programs.