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Proposed Bill Addresses Housing, Childcare, and Worker Shortage in Minnesota

March 24, 2019 10:44 PM

(ABC 6 news)-- The situation becomes more dire every day; the need for more housing and child care, which is also linked to the growing workforce shortage.

Various groups have been trying to address the problem in Southeastern Minnesota and the latest "solution" is a bill working its way through the legislature.

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"Venture SE MN Diversification Loan Fund" (HF 994/SF1825) calls the state to set aside $25 million for communities and cities in 11 counties, except for Rochester.

"You need to have child care and housing outside of Rochester," said Heather Holmes, the Project Manager of Journey to Growth (the organization that got lawmakers to author the bill).

The 11 eligible counties are Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha and Winona.

If it passes, the SE MN DLF would become a revolving loan fund. "Meaning any payment back from projects continues to refund the regions revolving loan fund for future projects," said Brenda Johnson, the Executive Director of the Southeast Minnesota League of Municipalities.

"There's literally nothing that can't fit into it for a request," said Holmes. "There's every industry you can think of: healthcare, technology, manufacturing, agriculture, child care and housing."

This is the second time the bill has been taken to the Capitol. "We kind of tested the waters last session," said Holmes.

However this time, there are more stats to back up the request. A regional study shows the potential revenue lost if the housing and daycare shortage is not addressed. "The economic impact between now and 2040 ... it stunned me ... over the 8 county area (this is only in the 8 county area) $4 billion dollars! Over $4 billion," said Johnson.

When you include all 11 counties, Holmes estimates the opportunities lost are worth closer to $8 million.

The lack of housing and child care are part of a bigger issue. "We are looking at a labor shortage," said Holmes.

"We are talking about a broad range of employees and marketable skills that are needed in Southeast Minnesota," said Johnson.

So for growth to continue, attracting new entrepreneurs and workers to the region is critical.

If the bill passes, the loan program will be the first of its kind in Minnesota. "That doesn't exist right now on any level of the state where there is a fund that both communities, counties and private businesses can access," said Holmes.

Credits

Hannah Tiede

Copyright 2019 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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