Update on GMNP legislative priorities

The top priorities for the Partnership this session are addressing three critical shortages in Greater Minnesota: child care, workforce housing, and broadband. Here is a quick update on where things stand on these issues. (More information on the Partnership’s legislative priorities can be found here).

Child care, or lack thereof, has become a major economic barrier throughout Greater Minnesota. We are currently short almost 40,000 child care slots, each of which impacts a family, an employer, and a community. While there are a number of policy provisions and individual investments that can make a difference, this session we focused on two areas that are specific to the challenge in Greater Minnesota: providing support for child care providers to access training and technical support, and addressing the shortage by supporting community planning and providing access to expansion capital.

The House provides funding for these efforts in a few different ways. Included in the Jobs bill is $12 million for provider support grants, $10 million in a grant program administered by DEED, and $2 million to be allocated to the six Initiative Foundations to support the child care work they do. Of the $10 million for DEED grants, at least half has to be awarded to projects in Greater Minnesota. Included in the House bonding bill is $5 million for the Greater Minnesota Child Care Facilities Grant program, which would provide capital to local governments to build out space for new child care businesses.

The Senate Jobs bill provides $3 million for the six Initiative Foundations. In addition, the Human Services omnibus bill includes $20 million for grants to communities to increase the supply of child care providers, $12 million of which must go to projects in Greater Minnesota. It also includes $50 million for child care facility revitalization and expansion in Greater Minnesota. Funding for the provisions included in the Senate Human Services bill comes from the child care funding included in the American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress in March. The state has yet to receive guidance from the federal government on how those funds can be used. There is some question as to whether the $50 million for child care facilities is permissible under the federal bill.

It does not appear that much targeted specifically to Greater Minnesota’s housing crunch is in the pipeline. The House proposed $30 million in new spending, while the Senate had a $0 increase. While the Partnership is advocating for new investment in Greater Minnesota-specific programs, the new House spending is dedicated to programs that are accessible by all communities across the state. New funding is proposed in the House bill for the Challenge program, the Homeowner Assistance Fund, Rental Housing Rehabilitation, Local Housing Trust Fund Grants, and a new naturally Occurring Affordable Housing program.

Funding for the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband program is included in both the House and Senate bills currently being negotiated in the Agriculture and Broadband Finance conference committee. The House bill includes $30 million for the grant program and $350,000 for the Office of Broadband Development at DEED. The Senate version includes $40 million for the grant program, and an additional $80 million if federal funds become available. Federal funds could come from either the $2.5 billion appropriation the state received from the American Rescue Plan, or from the infrastructure bill currently under debate in DC. The Senate bill also includes $350,000 for the office. Based on the state’s broadband goal of having all homes and businesses able to access download speeds of 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of 20 megabits per second by 2026, the Governor’s Broadband Task Force projects the state needs $120 million per biennium between now and 2026 to reach that goal.