ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan have proposed $25.8 million in Coronavirus Relief Fund spending to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and its effects among vulnerable populations. The funding comes in direct response to the increased need for safe housing by people experiencing homelessness, victims of domestic violence or exploitation and human trafficking, elderly Minnesotans, and others at increased risk of COVID-19.
“This proposal will provide much-needed funding to programs aimed at helping at-risk Minnesotans, like our elderly and those who cannot safely isolate at home,” said Gov. Walz. “We are committed to doing all we can to help contain the spread of COVID-19, especially among our most vulnerable citizens.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the crises that have been impacting low-income and vulnerable Minnesotans for far too long,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan. “This funding is critical to support Minnesotans experiencing homelessness, victims of domestic violence or human trafficking, elderly Minnesotans, and other at-risk individuals having a safe place to stay and access to the services they need, including culturally-specific services, during this public health crisis.”
The funding has been requested for the following five purposes:
• $19 million to support lodging, staffing, isolation space, victim services support, food, and personal protective equipment at homeless shelters and to make modest capital improvements to shelters and other spaces to improve their infection control capabilities;
• $4.64 million to establish an “Emergency Temporary Staffing Pool” with staff contracted through third-party staffing agencies available to work at congregate living settings with a COVID-19-related staffing crisis;
• $225,000 to provide necessary funding for MNsure-certified navigators to assist people who need COVID-19 testing but lack insurance coverage;
• $900,000 to secure on-demand, guaranteed rides for people in vulnerable populations (older adults, people with disabilities, those with underlying conditions, and those experiencing homelessness) who are COVID-19 symptomatic or are positive through a private service provider; and
• $1.06M to provide essential wrap around services to help older Minnesotans stay in their own homes, who without support, would otherwise be at risk of moving to institutional congregate settings, such as a nursing home or an assisted living facility.
This proposal was developed by the Governor’s At-Risk Populations work group. The use of federal funding must be reviewed by the Legislative Advisory Commission. Once reviewed, the Minnesota Department of Human Services will administer these funds.
The State has been committed to supporting Minnesotans experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, including previous appropriations:
• $26.5 million in state general fund dollars to the Department of Human Services to support people experiencing homelessness, including the support of 2,200 hotel and safe spaces statewide;
• $5.5 million to providers under Department of Human Services’ Housing Support to help them follow federal and state COVID-19 guidance;
• $3.7 million in federal funds to provide meals for those experiencing homelessness who aren’t using shelter; and
An additional over $20 million in federal funding specifically for shelters and street outreach across the state will be allocated over the coming months, including $7.5 million currently open for proposals.