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Proposal would provide state funding to help renters, landlords through pandemic

"We're concerned that the eventual cascade of non-payment of rents will leave folks so far behind that they will never be able to catch up."

ST PAUL, Minn. — Gina Vinge owns 500 5th Avenue Salon & Spa in New Brighton. Like all salons in the state, her business is currently halted due to the pandemic. 

It's been closed since March 17 and will remain that way until at least May 2.

"While we understand this is for the good of the public's health, it really does have great economic consequences for me and my family," she said during a virtual press conference Wednesday. 

As a small business owner, Vinge isn't able to collect unemployment.

"Just coming into April, it feels okay, but then looking forward to May, it starts to get really scary," she said of her finances.

Some house lawmakers and housing advocates are hoping to help Vinge and others who are in similar positions. 

During a press conference Wednesday, leaders from the House Housing Policy and Finance Division discussed a proposal to provide state funding to help renters. 

Though an amount hasn't been finalized yet, advocates for both renters and landlords have pushed for $100 million. The money would be added to the already existing Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program. If a tenant qualifies, their landlord would be paid directly for their rent. 

"We're concerned that the eventual cascade of non-payment of rents will leave folks so far behind that they will never be able to catch up," said Anne Mavity, executive director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership, one of the groups calling for $100 million in state funding to help renters. 

While Governor Walz's executive order suspends evictions during the pandemic, it does not cancel rent payments. Advocates worry that missed payments will snowball, creating problems for both tenants and landlords. 

RELATED: Gov. Walz orders a halt on evictions during COVID-19 pandemic

"As a property manager, we are counting on the rents to pay for the mortgages, property taxes, insurance, the upkeep of the buildings, the upkeep of the units, as well as our employees to keep them employed," said Jennifer Spadine with Guardian Property Management.

There are still details to work out, including who would qualify for the rent help.

"We want to make sure the money goes to those that are hardest hit and that are struggling the most, and we want to make sure that we have rental owners making their payments," said Rep. Tama Theis, the Republican Lead on the House Housing Policy and Finance Division.

Rep. Alice Hausman, Chair of the House Housing Policy and Finance Division, said she hopes lawmakers will have some sort of resolution on the proposal by April 14, the date the legislature is scheduled to meet again. 

RELATED: Minnesota Legislature passes $330 million COVID-19 aid bill

"My hope would be that we could have some resolution of this by that day, and that we could quickly move on that particular day," she said.

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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