For the state’s economy to grow, Minnesota needs to invest in a strong and stable workforce. The entire state benefits when Minnesotans have better access to education, specialized training and stable housing. The House and Senate omnibus economic development bills propose new investments to strengthen the workforce through more jobs, training and affordable housing options.
Job creation is a frequent theme at the Capitol these days, and the Senate invests $55 million in the Minnesota Investment Fund and the Minnesota Job Creation Fund. These funds go to local governments and businesses, with the goal of creating 12,500 to 15,000 new jobs in the state. The House invests nearly $39 million in these two funds.
The House also provides just over $2 million in funding for the Job Skills Partnership, which works with businesses and educational institutions to train Minnesotans to meet needs in the labor market.
Both the House and Senate increase funding for workforce and business development grants to nonprofit organizations and other entities, but they go about it in very different ways. The House opens up grants to a competitive process, where organizations must apply for funding in the upcoming biennium. The Senate allocates funding to the organizations that received grants in 2012 to simplify the process.
The new Housing and Job Growth Initiative, originally proposed by the Governor, seeks to build affordable housing to respond to job growth. The Senate provides $15 million for this new initiative. The House funds the existing Housing Challenge Program instead, providing nearly $7 million to build rental housing in support of economic development.
There are also additional investments in the Housing Trust Fund, with the House and Senate both increasing overall funding by approximately $2 million in FY 2014-15. Both also provide funding for rental assistance to stabilize housing for children whose families move frequently ($1.5 million in the House and $3 million in the Senate); and the Senate includes $2 million in rental assistance for ex-offenders reintegrating into the workforce.
Other investments in housing include:
- Family homelessness prevention: an additional $1 million in the House and $4 million in the Senate.
- Rental assistance for individuals with a serious mental illness: an additional $2 million in the Senate.
- Rental rehabilitation in Greater Minnesota: an additional $1 million in the House.
- Affordable rental housing for low-income families throughout Minnesota: an additional $2 million in the Senate.
As the House and Senate work out differences in conference committee, we urge them to keep job training and affordable housing as a top priority for investment.