Walz, state leaders highlight emergency assistance resources for Minnesotans

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Gov. Tim Walz and state leaders on Thursday took time to highlight some emergency assistance resources available to Minnesotans in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties Interim Executive Director Catherine Fair, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove, Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead and Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho also joined the press conference at CAP-RW in St. Paul.

Grove noted that almost 900,000 Minnesotans have applied for unemployment insurance benefits since the pandemic started.

However, with the federal $600 weekly unemployment benefit expiring late last month, the group highlighted ways for Minnesotans to find help. An extension of that benefit is still under discussion in Congress.

Opponents of the $600 unemployment benefit have said it creates a reason for people who are unemployed to not find work.

Walz said, in some cases, it depends on what jobs are available to people and what they are able to do, if they’re at a higher risk and if they can do the job.

Walz and Grove added that the program benefits go right back into the state’s economy, and seven out of 10 Minnesotans who can go back to work are going back to work, many for less money than unemployment benefits would provide.

One avenue Minnesotans can use to find resources for help is BridgetoBenefits. Ho urged homeowners and renters are urged to talk to their mortgage providers or landlord to set up payment plans that could help. Otherwise, the Minnesota Homeownership Center may be able to help.

With the state’s positivity rate climbing slowly and now above 5%, Walz was asked if he and state leaders are considering any changes. Walz said state officials expect to see effects of the statewide mask mandate being reflected in the Minnesota Department of Health’s daily numbers around Aug. 15. Walz added that they’ll continue to monitor the virus trends in the state and consider dialing back if necessary but said as of Thursday, "I don’t think we’re there."

On schools, Walz said he’s hopeful the virus numbers in the state will start declining by the end of August and some districts may be able to adjust their teaching method.

Walz noted that as the pandemic continues, people are getting frustrated and rightfully so. "It’s hard, it’s distressing," Walz said. He added that there’s still a lot more work to do and they’ll continue to work to help Minnesotans in need.

You can watch Thursday’s full press conference below.