My name is Nicole Lyons. I am a mother of 3 girls, ages 10, 9 and 3, as well as a small business owner in Mankato, MN. I opened my hair salon in 2011 and in 2016 I hired my first employee. I feel fortunate and proud to have built a business over the last 9 years in which we can serve and interact with our community members.
In early 2018 I made the choice to leave an unhealthy relationship, and in order to do so, I made the choice to apply for, and received, county assistance. Being a business owner, this was a hard thing to do, but it was necessary in order to get me on my feet and take care of my girls. I believe that assistance is made available for those in a time of need, and as soon as I felt comfortable that I could make it on my own, I no longer used that. When we got the news of having to be closed first for 10 days, which then extended into 6 weeks, I knew immediately that I needed to apply, once again for government assistance to keep my children fed as well as other essential needs met.
Being self employed, I do not currently qualify for unemployment. My one employee is receiving unemployment benefits; however, I am not. Because of COVID-19, I went from being employed one day, to being unemployed the next. I rely on the people in my chair every single day to pay the bills that are due. Not only do I have to worry about all the business expenses, but my personal expenses as well. My expenses are all doubled, on a sole income.
I have applied for relief through the SBA, on both state and federal levels. However, very few of these programs are actually being funded yet. I have a 3 week wait on the SBA EIDL loan, and IF we do end up getting any type of unemployment benefits, I’ve already been out of work for 20 days, bills are piling up, another month of rent for both the business and my home are due. I have gone 20 days without an income, and AT LEAST 27 more to go. I am grateful for the programs put in place by our government, however the new ones are very slow, and nothing is guaranteed.
Business owner or not, I still have personal bills due to keep my household running- the most significant being my townhome rent. This is why we need lawmakers to support HF4517, which provides emergency rental and housing assistance to Minnesotans affected by COVID-19. If this bill were to move forward, myself, and many other Minnesotans could rest a little easier knowing our kids will not have to be uprooted from their homes, during an economic pandemic and financial crisis--especially when they’ve already been kept from their friends and extended family, sent away from their schools and teachers, and are learning “from a distance”. Therefore, I urge legislators to please pass this bill for Minnesotans like me who were knocked off our feet, with no warning, and by no fault of our own.
My name is Rhonda Malloy. I moved to Minnesota in 2002 to start a new life with the promise of 4 seasons a year and rankings of the 10th best place to raise children. Shortly after moving here, I found myself in the hospitality field (food service) which I thoroughly enjoyed because I was able to engage with so many different and wonderful people. Because of this particular field, I have made many very close friends and networks of support.
However, this profession has given me many obstacles to overcome. I worked many hours to provide for my children, grandson and myself (often double shifts) only to find that I still cannot make ends meet financially. I struggle to meet my financial obligations monthly and struggle to find assistance along the way. I have applied for cash, food stamps, and rental assistance. Every time I get the same response: “No." No, because I just barely pass the income guidelines. No, because I work too many hours so I just don't qualify.
I have hopes of providing a safe and consistent life for my children. I want the best for them and would thrive knowing that I could do that by just going to work every day. But that is not the case. I worry every single day as to how I will provide just the basics for them—I have been without income for 3 weeks and still no sight of unemployment kicking in. I am sleepless every single night with the extra stuff like birthday parties, brand name clothing and college funds.
Due to COVID-19, I lost hours early in March which equals lost wages, and then shortly after lost employment all together. Following this loss I received an eviction letter from my landlord indicating I would lose my housing if my rent was not payed in full by April 20th, 2020. Even though I understand that evictions will not be processed at this time, I was made aware by my landlord that I am still responsible for back pay and I will still be at risk for eviction once this order is lifted.
I have worked hard every day since this crisis to find "essential" employment and was thankfully able to secure work just a few days ago. However, this is far too late to be able to get caught up on all the back payments I now owe. Now, I am asking that legislators work hard as well. My loved ones, friends and neighbors have no leverage without their help.
What we need desperately to hear now is “Yes." Yes, rental assistance will be available to my family and others in this desperate time of need. Yes, "non essential" workers will have a 60-90 day grace period to pay back these debts to avoid evictions, homelessness and hopelessness.
Lawmakers, please advocate for us who have been most impacted by COVID-19. We have a voice but you are "essential" to making sure our voices are heard.
My name is Amber Tinker, and I'm a resident of Crow Wing County in Brainerd, Minnesota. I am a 41 year old married mother of 5 children, aged 18 to 5. We live outside of town on about 2.5 acres. We have 2 dogs, a cat and around 15 chickens. Two years ago my husband started a small business in construction called Chuck the Builder. I myself was a Head Start graduate, as well as 4 of my kids. I've sat on the Policy Council at Tri-County Community Action Partnership for 5 years, last 4 as President. We are huge supporters of Head Start after seeing first hand how crucial this program is to our youth and community.
Last Friday I was unexpectedly laid off at my position of 7 years in Administration at Maddens on Gull Lake. This came as a HUGE CRUSH TO OUR FAMILY. At best, we live paycheck to paycheck. We are not proud of that, but somehow we always managed to keep hope and stay afloat. Unfortunately now that is absolutely not the case. We have a $700 monthly rent payment and now we are at a loss as to how to cover it in these unprecedented times.
I'm asking lawmakers to support rental assistance for Minnesota families like mine who have been impacted by COVID-19. I know many other families right here in my hometown who are also facing these struggles and fears. Please keep families like mine in mind while major issues are being decided down there in these upcoming weeks. I have faith that you will and can do the right thing for our people!!
Abby (courtesy of Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership [CAPLP])
Abby was born and raised in rural Minnesota and now lives in rural Wilkin County. Abby struggled with addiction and lost all hope, so she entered a rehabilitation facility and regained hope. After graduating from treatment, Abby was at risk of becoming homeless, but she was determined to create a better life.
Abby worked with CAPLP’s Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program (FHPAP) to find a place to call home after she graduated her treatment program. She was excited to get back to work, so she could get back on her feet. Abby planned to acquire a job immediately in the service industry as a server. Abby is a highly qualified server but doesn’t have experience in any other industry.
However, as soon as Abby started looking for work, restaurants began closing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Because most restaurants stopped hiring, Abby cannot find a job.
Abby began to feel stuck. After making so much progress, she couldn’t do anything to better her situation. Abby has no income and has been practicing social distancing. Because she lives by herself, her mental health has declined, and she feels helpless. Without CAPLP’s services, Abby would feel totally alone. She is grateful her CAPLP housing advocate checks in with her and provides the resources she needs. Sometimes, all she needs is someone to talk to and believe in her. Her advocate is building her back up and helping her understand she isn’t a failure and things will improve. Abby now has big dreams to go back to school, so she can gain more work experience and obtain a better job! With the help of CAPLP, she has hope for a better future.
My name is Quaintance. I am originally from California but relocated to Minnesota in 2010. I am currently residing in a suburb of Minneapolis.
Although I have experienced homelessness while living in Minnesota, I found community and friends. Starting at Simpson Housing Services in Minneapolis, I was transitioned and supported through GRH, a very successful county group housing program. In GRH you are placed in your own solo apartment and have some wraparound services concerning spending and life skills. Both GRH and Simpson's systems helped me out of homelessness and into an apartment at Crossroads at Penn complex in Richfield, where I settled in five years ago with my two rescue cats, Coconut and Misty. One of my cats is special needs and tries to live under the bed, so I coax her out into the world each day. They really are like a little family to me.
At Crossroads, I thrived happily with my pets, my neighbors, and the relief of having found housing. I felt very stable, safe and secure. Regretfully, I was displaced from Crossroads through mass gentrification by a developer. I used my tenant voice to confront the new owner and say clearly that people like me are not disposable and we should be allowed to move in the time and place of our own choosing--not be removed under aggressive construction, where 100 others in my GRH program were also forced to leave.
Though I had to move under these difficult circumstances, and despite tremendous stress, I found a new complex and I hung in there for these last three years with my county programming.
I am happy to say that now, after literally ten years of working the programs and helping to organize communities myself, I am currently the proud recipient of a new Section 8 voucher which I will apply as soon as I can find the best apartment in a neighborhood of my own choosing.
One of my dreams is to one day rent or own a manufactured home of my own and to own a rescue horse or two, in maybe a warmer southern state. First I need to use my Section 8 voucher here in Minnesota, and then I can look at porting it in later years to a warmer place. The voucher is a more independent form of subsidy and I can finally start my best new beginning ever.
For now Minnesota has been a very warm place spiritually for me to grow stronger and live the life I want to live. I am a lifelong diabetic but I manage my diabetes very well, and I have overcome some cognitive challenges from my childhood. Without Minnesota's range of services and wraparound care, I might not be as healthy and balanced, and the woman I am today.
Thank you for listening to my story. I've enclosed a picture of me with my fellow advocates at Crossroads at Penn when we premiered a public television documentary about the renters at Crossroads.