Resources, State Funding to Assist Minnesotans in Pandemic Recovery

district perspectives

Senator Sandy Pappas, District 65
columnist
The 2021 legislative session and ensuing special session were particularly challenging, especially as a member of the minority party in the Senate. Just as it changed the way all Minnesotans live their lives, COVID-19 forced us to make significant changes to our standard procedures and norms at the Minnesota Senate. Fortunately, in spite of strong partisan divisions at the Senate, our state government was able to work together with our partners in the federal government and at the local level to take on the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the economic disruption that came with it. 
Thanks to the work of the Biden administration in passing the American Rescue Plan, the state of Minnesota is equipped with the resources it needs to assist working Minnesotans as our state undergoes the economic recovery effort following the successful rollout of coronavirus vaccines. Now more than ever, Minnesotans have resources available to them to help recover from pandemic-related job loss, economic hardship and difficulty paying bills or rent. Right now, Minnesotans who are behind on rent or struggling to pay their utility bills can go to renthelpmn.org to apply for assistance to catch up on their payments. Income-qualifying households can also go to mn.gov to apply for Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program, which provides direct relief to renters and homeowners to cover heating costs and furnace repairs. For those who need emergency food support, there are also additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits available at mn.gov to help families purchase food with a monthly pre-loaded debit card. For working families, the federal Child Tax Credit program will begin to send direct cash payments to parents to help pay for the costs associated with raising children. Additionally, MNSure has opened a special enrollment period and expansion for summer 2021. Minnesotans whose incomes were previously too high to receive tax credits, or who felt their plan options were otherwise unaffordable the last time they checked out MNsure, should take another look at mnsure.org to see if they qualify for tax credits to lower the cost of their health insurance. Finally, if you have not yet received a vaccine and you wish to be vaccinated, you can use Minnesota’s online vaccine connector to find a vaccination clinic near you.
In addition, the Minnesota legislature and Gov. Walz recently passed a state budget that includes notable provisions that will improve life for working Minnesotans. We maintained the Market Bucks program, which empowers SNAP-eligible Minnesotans with additional financial assistance to purchase nutritious foods at farmers markets across the state. We also boosted funding for schools and buses to provide students and schools with the resources they need to boost educational opportunities that were unavailable during pandemic remote learning. 
Finally, Minnesota passed notable tax reforms to conform with recent federal tax changes. The changes will affect many taxpayers, but especially the more than 500,000 who received unemployment in 2020 and may be due refunds. Taxpayers do not need to take any action right now, but they should consider visiting revenue.state.mn.us to sign up for the Department of Revenue’s email alerts on the issue. In Minnesota, those who received unemployment benefits during 2020 will not need to pay income taxes on any unemployment benefits at or below $10,000, which includes the vast majority of those who enrolled in unemployment. 
 As we embark on our collective effort to rebuild Minnesota’s economy out of the ashes of the coronavirus pandemic, our state is equipped with the resources, the public sector leadership and the skills necessary to pull through and build a state that’s better than ever. If you need help applying for any pandemic-related assistance programs, please email at sen.sandy.pappas@senate.mn or by phone at 651-296-1802. Help is here and we’re here to help you access it.

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