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Walz announces $100 million housing assistance program amid pandemic

ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX47) -- As many Minnesotans struggle financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz announced a new $100 million housing assistance program to help prevent evictions and homelessness.

“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,” Walz said in a news release on Tuesday. “We hope this program will bring some relief to Minnesotans across the state who are struggling to afford their bills because of the pandemic.”

Walz said the $100 million program will be funded by the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which is authorized by the CARES Act.

“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,” Lt. Governor Flanagan said. “This housing assistance will help us keep individuals and families in their homes throughout this pandemic.”

Walz is recognizing that officials have asked people to stay home in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, but notes that is very difficult to do if you don't have a home.

"We are deeply concerned that the federal boost to unemployment insurance is expiring next week and then that will come to play the following month, which will be September 1st, is where rents will be due," said Walz. "And again, that makes it very very difficult for people to have any stability, it makes it very very difficult for children to learn if they don't have a home, especially if they are trying to distance learn. It makes it very difficult for people to practice social distancing and use that haven of a home place of safety and refuge."

Jenny Larson with Three Rivers Community Action says there is already a shortage of affordable housing in Minnesota and if residents were to lose their housing, they wouldn't have anywhere else to go.

"Right now we have very limited resources to help the folks who are calling us," said Larson. "Our current funds run out within weeks, if not days, of when we get the assistance. And right now, we've only been able to serve 15 percent of the people who call us for help. So with that, I'm really excited to see this funding announced today and ready to get to work with our partners across the state."

In conjunction with the announcement, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency has reportedly launched a request for proposals to local organizations to administer the assistance program. Walz said local administrators will be selected to to receive grants within the coming weeks.

Minnesota Housing is reportedly anticipating that Minnesotans will be able to start applying for assistance with local grant administrators in early August. More information about the program can be found here.

“This housing assistance will allow Minnesotans to stay safe and stay home while we endure the effects of a pandemic,” Housing Commissioner Jennifer Leimaile Ho said in a news release. “At the same time, we must keep the need to create and preserve more housing front and center. We need more housing.”

Nicole Valinote

Social Media and Digital Content Manager

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