Updated: July 14, 2020 06:04 PM
Created: July 14, 2020 02:59 PM
Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan announced a $100 million housing assistance program to help prevent evictions, prevent homelessness and maintain housing stability for individuals and families impacted by COVID-19.
The announcement was made Tuesday afternoon at West Broadway Crescent Apartments. The $100 million investment will be funded with federal dollars through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which was authorized by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The Walz administration has been working to prevent and end homelessness and housing instability both long before and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. About $26 million has been sent to help shelters and street outreach workers give Minnesotans a safe place to go, creating more than 2,100 additional safe spaces statewide.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has hit families across the state hard. I've said throughout this fight that my top priority is Minnesotans' safety, health, and wellbeing. And we know that stable housing is key to safety, health, and wellbeing," said Walz. "We hope this program will bring some relief to Minnesotans across the state who are struggling to afford their bills because of the pandemic."
Flanagan said during the news conference that 140,000 households in the state are making less than $50,000 a year.
"Minnesota faced a housing crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and for some Minnesotans, a lost job or unexpected expenses have put their housing at risk," added Lt. Governor Flanagan. "This housing assistance will help us keep individuals and families in their homes throughout this pandemic."
Flanagan said one in four households that need help receive federal assistance, and people of color are particularly affected.
In conjunction with the announcement, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency launched a COVID-19 Housing Assistance Program Request for Proposals to select local organizations to administer the housing assistance program. Grants will be made to local administrators to provide outreach; accept and process applications from households requesting assistance; validate household eligibility; and process payments for eligible expenses on behalf of households to help maintain housing stability.
Local grant administrators will be selected in the coming weeks, according to the Governor's Office. Minnesota Housing anticipates Minnesotans can begin applying for assistance with local grant administrators in the first part of August. Additional information about the program can be found on the Minnesota Housing website.
"This housing assistance will allow Minnesotans to stay safe and stay home while we endure the effects of a pandemic," said Housing Commissioner Jennifer Leimaile Ho. "At the same time, we must keep the need to create and preserve more housing front and center. We need more housing."
Ho adds to expect the number of people needing assistance to increase heading into the fall.
"There's a reason why we're here in zip code 55411; nearly half of residents here have faced eviction," Ho said.
A shortage of housing existed in Minnesota before the pandemic, and the governor says more shelters are needed because shelters save lives. Walz said they're investing in basic things that people need that help the economy.
"The number one reason people get evicted is they don't pay their rent," Walz says. He adds the moratorium preventing evictions during the pandemic is still in effect; making sure people affected by the pandemic don't get evicted.
The governor also mentioned racism as an impact to housing, noting that more people of color are affected housing-wise by the pandemic because of years of impact from racism and the wealth and education gap in Minnesota. In order to change that, Walz said lawmakers need to hold hearings and pass laws.
Walz said 11 states have passed some sort of police reform since George Floyd died on Memorial Day.
"Minnesota hasn't, and it shows some of the issues we still have to overcome regarding issues of race," he said Tuesday.
Watch the full presser below.
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