Minnesota expects to dole out full $100 million in housing assistance money thanks to late push

Minnesota housing officials say they received enough requests to give out the full $100 million in assistance for struggling homeowners and renters and do not expect to turn any money back.

Last week, the housing department said it was sitting on a pile of that money after only $67 million in applications had come in with just a few days before the Monday deadline. In July, the state freed up $100 million in federal CARES Act money for the program. More than $30 million was requested in the first month of the program.

Housing officials said a “big media push and extensive outreach” helped the state get that money into the hands of homeowners and renters.

The CARES Act, known widely as the stimulus law that Congress approved this spring, requires states to spend all of the federal funding by the end of 2020. Minnesota set Monday's deadline for housing assistance so it could redirect any unspent money.

Gov. Tim Walz said they thought it was likely that Congress would extend the deadline to use CARES Act money. Walz said he expected Congress would include it in a resolution to fund the government later this month.

Minnesota has lost 184,000 jobs since February as the pandemic roils the economy. Gov. Tim Walz has twice closed bars, restaurants and numerous other businesses in an attempt to control the virus spread. The state reported 92 new deaths on Thursday, the second-most of any single day.

Lots of renters and homeowners have applied for housing assistance since July but for smaller-than-expected amounts, Ho said.

"It was just really hard to quantify the level of need," Ho said. "I didn’t promise the governor and lieutenant governor that we knew for sure we’d have $100 million in requests. We didn’t want to have less money than the amount of need."

Any renter or homeowner whose household income is below 300 percent of the federal poverty threshold can apply, if the person is unable to make a payment because of a coronavirus-related issue, such as a lost job or illness. For a family of four, the income limit is no more than $78,600. For a single person, it's $38,280.