Greater Twin Cities United Way and our partners at the Minnesota Council of Foundations, Metropolitan Alliance of Connected Communities, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and United Ways of Minnesota recently held virtual Town Hall meetings with two top legislators, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake).
Both sessions provided an opportunity to share our recommendations to support safety net providers and the people we serve who are in the greatest need as well as Minnesota’s remarkable nonprofit network that delivers critical services for hundreds of thousands. Our discussions with Rep. Winkler and Sen. Benson were positive and productive, and the virtual Town Hall meetings were a great opportunity for us to provide information and share our priorities.
We let Rep. Winkler and Sen. Benson know we appreciate the legislature’s work during this unprecedented crisis, but that nonprofits need additional support to avoid a disruption of critical community services.
Nonprofits are employers – employing more than 13 percent of Minnesota’s workforce – and providers supplying food assistance, domestic violence crisis response, childcare, mental health services and more. Nonprofits also are facing challenges on a number of fronts as state and federal reimbursements are decreasing; philanthropic giving is down; galas, banquets and conferences are cancelled; and unemployment has increased demand for services from nonprofits.
We recently sent a letter to Governor Walz, legislative leaders and state agency commissioners with our full set of recommendations for supporting the nonprofit sector during the COVID-19 response.
In the Town Hall meetings, we noted that housing is a particularly critical need right now. With public health leaders and the Governor directing Minnesotans to “stay at home,” it is imperative to ensure people have a safe and stable place to stay. While we appreciate action taken to suspend eviction proceedings in Minnesota throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we consider that a first step and more will need to be done.
Many Minnesotans with low incomes are facing loss of income or unemployment. Approximately 250,000 Minnesotans make at or below the minimum wage, and these individuals and their families are at high risk of becoming homeless as they’re most vulnerable to health and economic harms.
As a result, we shared with Rep. Winkler and Sen. Benson that we support a state appropriation of $100 million in emergency COVID-19 funds for housing supports through the Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program or FHPAP.
We appreciate the time Rep. Winkler and Sen. Benson spent with nonprofit leaders from around the state. We will continue advocating for additional support from the legislature over the coming weeks.