First Day of 2011 Legislative Session
In the spirit of cooperation, the 2011 Legislative session begins today as newly elected and reelected legislators take their oath of office at the capitol. The legislative leaders in the House and Senate along with the Governor have been vocal about wanting to cooperate to solve the problems of the state of Minnesota. We have an opportunity in this discussion to send Legislators the message that Ending Homelessness is a solution that is cost effective as well as creates a healthy community. Our opportunity as people of faith is to illustrate to our legislators that people of faith know that caring for the lives of those in our community who are struggling is holy work.
Although there is a difference in many priorities, one of the collective legislative priorities is to balance the budget with a looming $6.2 billion budget deficit. With the budget deficit, Legislators will be making decisions about the depth of cuts and tax increases. The funding and policy work in the Health and Human Services budget will be imperative to keep from cuts as those without housing, with mental illness, physical or mental disabilities, seniors and many others will be without a safety net and will fall through the cracks.
Last session, the advocates of the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness along with many partners, were instrumental in speaking of the importance of this program. Hearing our concerns, Legislators passed a reform of the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) rather than the whole program being cut. However, the reform did not have adequate funding for the needs of those in the community who make less than $8,000. This week, the new Governor will sign the Medicaid Expansion bill, which will bring in money from the federal government to cover the cost of health care for the people on GAMC.
Another priority of the Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness is the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). This act provides services and housing opportunities for youth that do not have a place to live. Currently, the funding is less than $250,000 for all the services. According to Wilder Research, 45% of all homeless adults experienced homelessness before they were 21, illustrating the cyclical nature of homelessness. The services of the RHYA are so imperative to solving youth homelessness, as Nicollet Square is an example of the services to receive funding.
We have opportunities this session to talk with our Legislators, to educate them on the need for the effective programs and services to end homelessness. Thank you for your voice and for keeping this movement going forward!
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