Public Policy Update: The End is Near… for Minnesota's 2021 Legislative Session

6/29/21 by Dominic McQuerry

While there are a few lingering challenges as the 2021 session comes to a close in Minnesota, it appears that the legislature will pass a complete budget and avoid a state government shutdown. While they have not been signed into law, all major budget agreements have been released.

More work continues to be needed in order to ensure that we have state policy that reflects the needs of everyone in our community, but I would like to take this moment to recognize the immense impact that Wilder staff, clients and community had on some of this year’s legislative victories. We used our voice and made a difference!

This is not an exhaustive list of new funding or reforms, but some state budget highlights related to our 2021 agenda and other changes that impact our community. 

Maternal and Infant Health

There were several investments and policy changes made related to pregnancy, childbirth and post-partum health for child-bearers and babies.

  • Notably, post-partum Medical Assistance coverage will be extended from 60 days to 365 days.
  • Wilder’s African American Babies Coalition and Projects (AABC) will receive direct state funding for the next two years.
  • And, the Integrated Care for High Risk Pregnancies (ICHRP) initiative, of which AABC is a core participant, was given new funding to continue and expand their work.

These are just three of several provisions targeted at improving health and targeting racial disparities for mothers and babies. Wilder worked to support many of these proposals. Special shout out to AABC staff and all of the folks in Wilder Research who have done significant work on the importance of healthy early development.

Behavioral Health System Improvements

There are several big reforms that Wilder has been engaged with through development and advocacy.

  • The legislature agreed to a package of reforms to increase and better support our behavioral health workforce with a specific focus on BIPOC and rural practitioners.
  • Wilder worked as lead partner with NAMI Minnesota on this effort which included dozens of organizations and we were able to pass nearly the entire bill.
  • Additionally, after several years of work, the initial phase of Uniform Service Standards reforms for mental and chemical health passed.
  • Lastly, an agreement has been reached to reform our telehealth statutes after lessons learned during the pandemic.

Wilder’s community mental health and wellness staff helped to make the case for the continued use of audio-only services, which has been sustained through at least June of 2023. Shout out to our staff who have had a hand in the many mental and chemical health reforms passed this session!

Housing and Homelessness

An agreement was reached for an orderly end to the current statewide moratorium on evictions with provisions supported by the Homes for All coalition.

  • We will see a historic increase in funding for the Emergency Services Program (ESP), from less than $1 million per year to almost $7 million per year. ESP helps fund shelter operations and other services for people experiencing homelessness.
  • A new program in the tax bill will send $20 million per year to counties to prevent and end homelessness for school aged children starting in July 2023. The new program is modeled somewhat on the Homework Starts with Home program that we led the advocacy for with the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood in recent years.
  • We helped prepare a community leader to give testimony to the importance of stable housing for family success.

Thank you to the many Wilder staff and community leaders who have been pushing for years for new investments for affordable housing and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness.

Family Investment and Child Care Assistance

When the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) cash assistance grant was raised in 2019, it was the first increase in over 30 years.

  • The 2021 budget includes a cost of living adjustment for the program to keep pace with inflation, this is a HUGE accomplishment.
  • Also, MFIP families will receive a one-time bonus payment of approximately $435.
  • MN has some of the lowest child care assistance reimbursement rates in the country, but they did get a boost this session which will help both Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) families and providers.

Shout out to the Wilder Child Development Center and Communications staff who helped pull together a press conference on child care in less than two days over the weekend!

Education Initiatives and Partnerships

Unfortunately, the proposals to increase funding for Full Service Community Schools like Achievement Plus and collective impact initiatives like the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood were unsuccessful. The current level of state funding for SPPN will continue. Each of those initiatives has strong coalitions which we will continue to support in pushing for future investments. Shout out to the SPPN and A+ staff who continue to push forward conversations on the importance of schools as a hub for community building and services!

If you have any questions related to items passed or omitted during the 2021 session, please feel free to reach out to me. I look forward to working with you to prepare for the next legislative session beginning on Monday, January 31, 2022!