The Potluck

Nearly $800 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds will shore up health, human services spending

By: - June 24, 2021 3:12 pm

Personal care attendant Deb Howze helps her client Jay Spika. Photo courtesy of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

Nearly $800 million in federal COVID-19 relief dollars will be spent in the next four years on health and human services under a budget deal struck Thursday by the Minnesota House and Senate. 

Altogether, the health and human services spending will grow to just shy of $14 billion in the two-year budget cycle that starts July 1, representing a mix of both state general fund money and federal funding. 

House Democrats announced the deal just days ahead of a June 30 deadline to pass a new budget or force the state into a partial government shutdown. Legislative leaders, however, say they are confident they will finish their work before July 1. 

“Following a great deal of work to reach agreement on a new biennial budget, we’ve assembled the best HHS bill I’ve worked on during my tenure at the Capitol,” state Rep. Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth, said in a statement. “I’m particularly proud of our work to expand affordable child care access, make historic investments in home and community-based services to help individuals live independently, increase compensation for Personal Care Attendants (PCAs), and put in place a long-term path to help low-income Minnesotans have greater economic security.”

Schultz, and state Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, are chairs of two key House committees that helped craft the health and human services budget. In interviews, Schultz and Liebling highlighted a number of programs that will be funded through one-time federal dollars. 

They include: 

  • $435 one-time payments to families in the state’s Minnesota Family Investment Program, a welfare program for low-income families.
  • Additionally, MFIP recipients will receive a cost-of-living increase, as well as an additional $40 per month housing benefit. 
  • Rate increases for home care providers.
  • Personal care attendant service rate increases.
  • Additional funding for child care assistance. 
  • A sober housing oversight study.
  • A provision requiring hospitals that provide obstetric care and birth centers to provide continuing education on implicit bias, and authorizes the health commissioner to conduct maternal morbidity studies.
  • Coverage of weight-loss drugs under the state’s Medical Assistance program, which are currently not covered.

“The pandemic revealed gaps and weaknesses in the public health system Minnesotans rely on to keep us safe in emergencies and protect us from everyday threats,” Liebling said in a statement. “This budget invests in rebuilding and improving local public health so Minnesotans in every part of our state can count on efficient, effective local public health services in an emergency and every day.”

Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, said she would release a statement soon.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.