Minnesota lawmakers are being asked to approve $100 million in emergency funding for people who can’t pay their rent during the pandemic.
The demand comes from a host of housing groups. They say despite the federal stimulus package and a separate relief plan approved by the Minnesota Legislature, the Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program is being overlooked and needs an infusion of money.
Anne Mavity, executive director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership, says many affected by the downturn have already missed their April housing payment, and could see that debt grow in the coming months.
“It could be a cascade of folks that – just by the math, on a minimum-wage salary – can just not catch up with several months in back rent,” says Mavity.
She says even if the governor’s moratorium on evictions is extended past April 30, these low-wage workers could be forced from their homes after the pandemic for owing back rent.
Some lawmakers have questioned the proposal’s price tag, but Mavity says they don’t know yet how big the problem will be, and any leftover money can be returned to the general fund.
Because of the health risk, Minnesota lawmakers are meeting sparingly and aren’t scheduled to reconvene until mid-April. In the meantime, Mavity hopes enough of them can be convinced to approve the plan, which she says would also benefit landlords.
“Most property owners have mortgages that they have to pay,” says Mavity. “They have additional costs now, related to more extensive cleaning in their buildings. They need to continue to ‘lease up,’ and operate housing.”
The call for action comes as roughly 250,000 Minnesotans have filed for unemployment assistance in recent weeks.