Walz announces $15M in federal funds to support COVID-19 preparedness in Minnesota homeless shelters

(ABC 6 News) – Governor Tim Walz announced an allocation of $15 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to help emergency shelters serving vulnerable Minnesotans improve COVID-19 mitigation measures.

The funding will support the state’s Emergency Services Program grants, which are awarded to organizations that provide emergency shelter and essential services for people who are homeless. The $15 million in American Rescue Plan funds will be competitively awarded, prioritizing investments that acquire or modify shelter spaces to improve prevention of COVID-19 transmission or outbreaks.

“Every Minnesotan deserves a safe, warm place to sleep at night, especially as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Walz. “Minnesota’s shelters save lives and have been critical to our state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding will help ensure that as we approach our harsh winter months, Minnesota’s shelters are safe and available to Minnesotans who need them.”

Earlier this month, Governor Walz announced an allocation of $10 million in American Rescue Plan funds to be managed through an interagency, interdisciplinary state homeless shelter emergency response team focused on helping shelters prepare and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks. Those funds will focus on responding to outbreaks in existing shelters and other temporary congregate settings for people experiencing homelessness. Funds will cover expenses to keep operating with the needed personnel, room leasing costs, and other costs for supplies needed to sustain congregate setting operations, including air filtration, or food for those residing in isolation space.

Distinct from that $10 million allocation, the $15 million in funding announced today complements the previously allocated funds, and will be competitively awarded to programs, settings, and services, that help existing temporary congregate settings prevent transmission of infectious diseases, including:

  • Physical modifications to reduce transmission risks or increase separation of shelter guests,
  • Changes to ventilation or air filtration systems,
  • Modifications for traffic flow especially in high-traffic areas, and
  • Creation or acquisition of new shelter space designed to operate effectively in the context of an infectious disease.

In total, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan provides $8.5 billion to Minnesota to support COVID-19 recovery efforts. This includes $2.132 billion to local governments, $2.833 billion to the state government, and $3.505 billion for existing federally-funded programs to help Minnesotans who were impacted the most during the pandemic. State leaders agreed to divide the state’s $2.833 billion into three categories: immediate COVID-19 response ($500 million, which includes Governor Walz’s allocation of $15 million announced today), long-term pandemic recovery ($1.150 billion, to be allocated during the 2022 state legislative session), and state revenue replacement ($1.183 billion).

Additional allocations of the $500 million reserved for immediate COVID-19 response will be announced in the coming months, as the state continues to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 virus.

In addition to today’s allocation of $15 million for emergency shelter, Governor Walz today allocated $18 million of federal recovery funds to assist in the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19, including funding for the Minnesota Judicial Branch to relieve case backlog due to the pandemic. More information on the state’s federal recovery funds can be found here.