From the MN Broadband Coalition…
House Passes COVID-19 Relief Package, Broadband Funding
Saint Paul—The Minnesota House of Representatives passed HF 1507—the COVID-19 Economic Security Act— (75-58) on Thursday, May 7. Rep. Zack Stephenson’s (DFL-Coon Rapids) bill includes the following items:
- $15 million for distance learning technology reimbursement grants.
- $2 million for telemedicine technology and software reimbursement grants.
- $10 million broadband infrastructure grants in unserved areas.
- Temporary 15% pay increase for personal care assistants during the pandemic.
- $55 million in small-business emergency loans.
- $100 million for eviction and mortgage foreclosure protection and emergency housing assistance.
The language in HF 1507 is similar to the language in SF 4494 that was passed 66-0 by the Senate on May 4. There are two major differences between the two bills. First, the $10 million for broadband grants will come from the federal coronavirus relief account if it qualifies, but would be spent from the general fund if it does not. SF 4494 would cancel the appropriation if it doesn’t qualify for the federal funds. Second, the distance learning portion in HF 1507 is $15 million compared to the $8 million in SF 4494.
Now that the House has passed the bill, it will be sent to the Senate. However, there is currently no Senate companion with the spending and language included in HF 1507. The Senate hasn’t yet indicated if they will be taking up HF 1507 or if they will be assembling their own similar COVID-19 relief package.
There is still a chance that the House will pass a standalone broadband bill to match up with SF 4494 before the end of this year’s legislative session. Rep. Rob Ecklund’s (DFL-International Falls) HF 3029, a bill that includes the broadband, education, and telemedicine portions of HF 1507, has been sent to the House Ways and Means Committee where it awaits action by the committee.
We will continue to monitor these bills and update you as the end of session approaches.