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Public Policy Update: Omnibus Bills and Federal Housing

4/9/21 by Dominic McQuerry
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Omnibus Bill Bonanza and Testimony from Wilder Staff

This week was a busy one at the virtual Capitol, as the legislative committees released their omnibus bills. Omnibus bills are large bills made up from several smaller bills on a particular topic like education or housing. The House and Senate each have vastly different versions of these bills, and they will need to reconcile these differences before the end of session.

Wilder was well represented in providing our input on these omnibus bills this week. Several items from Wilder’s legislative agenda remain in play and we will continue to push for their inclusion in final agreements.

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Adora Land Tolefree

Adora Land Tolefree with the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood at the Wilder Foundation

Adora, Family Wrap Around Program Manager with Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood (SPPN), testified in the House Education Committee to express appreciation for their inclusion of funding support for the Education Partnership sites that include SPPN.

Craig Sweet

Craig Sweet is with Wilder's Achievement Plus Full-Service Community School Initiative at Saint Paul Music Academy

Craig, Achievement Plus Site Coordinator at Saint Paul Music Academy, testified in the House Education Committee about the power of the Full-Service Community School model and sending appreciation for the money in the omnibus bill to support the model around the state.

Dominic McQuerry

Dominic McQuerry is the Director of Public Policy & Community Relations at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation

Dominic, Director of Public Policy & Community Relations, testified on proposals supporting diversity in our behavioral health workforce, support for the African American Babies coalition, an expansion of Medical Assistance coverage for new mothers and more.

Federal (and State) Housing Activity

Rental Assistance
Minnesota Housing will be launching a new rental assistance program RentHelpMN later this month. Between two federal spending packages passed in December 2020 and March 2021, Minnesota will be eligible for over half a billion dollars to be used for rental assistance. Join us in ensuring that people in Minnesota get these resources that help maintain their stable housing. It’s as simple as sharing the link to RentHelpMN with your networks, through social media and other channels to help spread the word!

Federal Eviction Moratorium
The CDC has extended the national eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021. Minnesota currently has a more robust moratorium in place, but this federal moratorium would take effect if our state peacetime emergency ends before June 30. 

Housing Trust Fund
The recent wave of home buying and refinancing has led to historic funding for the federal Housing Trust Fund. These funds help support the construction of rehab housing that must remain affordable for a minimum of 30 years. While the Housing Trust Fund is able to disperse twice as many funds as it did in 2020, we still have significant work to do to solve our housing challenges.

Engage & Advocate: Mental Health Access for Medicare Beneficiaries

Under current regulations, marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors are not able to bill Medicare for their services. The Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2021 would correct this coverage gap. Typically, people think consider this a rural issue, but people on Medicare in our community also face challenges accessing behavioral health service, especially culturally specific care, due to these restrictions.

Policy Pro Corner

In each update we will include a tip, strategy or resource that will help you to improve your policy and advocacy skills. All policy and advocacy tips can be found here.

Tip #5: Do your best to learn the process or make a friend who knows it.

Most policymaking bodies from a neighborhood association to congress have rules and practices that shape their work, and most of the time they are unclear and confusing. Most of the time there isn’t a Schoolhouse Rock video to explain the process and missing a small step can set you back weeks or months.

Always try your best to understand all of the steps needed to pass a bill or ordinance or have someone in your community who can help answer questions. I would suggest starting with your elected official with your questions. If you’re someone who understands these processes, you should share this information freely!