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United Way Calls on Governor Walz and Legislature to Support COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Funding

Kristen Rosenberger is Senior Advocacy Manager at Greater Twin Cities United Way.

With the Minnesota Legislature in its final week of deliberations before session ends May 18, Greater Twin Cities United Way calls upon the governor and legislative leaders to support emergency rental assistance during final session negotiations. This funding is essential to maintain stable housing for thousands of Minnesotans that are at risk of facing homelessness due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Over the past two months, many Minnesotans from households with low-wealth have lost their jobs and income due to the impacts of COVID-19. For these individuals and families, any reduction in income can have serious consequences, including the inability to maintain housing or make rental payments.

Approximately 250,000 Minnesotans make at or below minimum wage. These individuals and their families are at high risk of becoming homeless and are also the most vulnerable to negative health and economic impacts.

We know that a stable home is the foundation that enables people to thrive. Ensuring stable housing is vital for our individual and collective health. It’s important to minimize disruptions to housing that could make it even tougher for Minnesotans to mitigate the threat of COVID-19. The links between safe, stable housing and health have never been clearer.

Investing in significant emergency rental assistance funding is critical to prevent unnecessary homelessness and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Advocating for Family Homeless Prevention & Assistance Program Funding

United Way actively supported the House’s proposal to provide a $100 million appropriation for emergency rental assistance through the Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program (FHPAP), which advanced through several committee hearings and is now included in the House’s proposed COVID-19 Economic Security Act legislation.

With increasing needs due to COVID-19, additional funding for this program is crucial to ensure people adversely impacted by the crisis can maintain stable housing. The proposed funding would go through the state’s existing FHPAP, which would allow the process to work as quickly and smoothly as possible.

As a well-established program, FHPAP has already helped many families impacted by COVID-19. We’ve heard from several of our nonprofit partners about the very real impacts of the current health and economic crisis, and how FHPAP rental assistance provided supports to ensure they had stable housing. Recent examples include:

  • A single mother with a young child had recently taken on a supporting role for two high-school-aged children, which doubled the size of her family. The fast food restaurant where she worked suddenly closed because of COVID-19. When her lease ended in the middle of the stay-at-home order, she was without an income. She was able to secure support from FHPAP to ensure housing for her family.
  • A young couple shared an apartment with two cousins before COVID-19 to save on rental expenses. When they all lost their jobs during the pandemic, they used their savings to cover their rent for March and April. But their savings ran out, and they didn’t have money to pay rent for May. While they’re waiting for restaurants to re-open so they can return to work, they have been able to utilize FHPAP funding to maintain their current housing.
  • A domestic violence survivor with two children recently suffered a huge loss of income due to COVID-19. Having been self-employed for the past three years, she suddenly found herself unable to cover her housing costs. She is now able to pay for housing and maintain critical stability for her family with FHPAP support.

In addition to rental assistance, FHPAP funding can be used to cover mortgage payments, homeowner association dues, mobile home lot rent, homeowner’s insurance, payments on a contract for deed, utility payments and property taxes.

To be eligible, people need to show they are unable to pay for housing as a direct or indirect result of the public health emergency and have an income that falls below established limits (300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines).

With the proposed emergency funding, thousands of Minnesotans who are struggling to pay their rent due to the unexpected COVID-19 crisis would be able to maintain their housing, preventing their immediate risk of sliding into homelessness.

Contact the Governor’s Office to Support Homelessness Prevention Funding

We’re encouraging supporters and partners to reach out to Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan to thank them for their support for $100 million in FHPAP funding, and to encourage them to insist that legislators include this funding in final session legislation.

You can send a message to the Governor and Lt. Governor here.

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