WASHINGTON, D.C. [03/18/22]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) announced the funding of several special projects in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul metro area. She has worked to bring $3,699,000 in total across five projects, which vary from Native American health care and job training, expanding access to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) experiences for young students, support for students with disabilities, and economic development for the African American Rondo community in Saint Paul.
“All of these projects are critical investments in communities across the Twin Cities metro area,” said Sen. Smith. “Investing in Native health care and job training, expanding STEM education and supporting students with disabilities, and spurring economic opportunity for the Black community are all important ways to support the diverse communities that call the Twin Cities home.”
Expanding Native American Health Care and Job Training
$1,000,000 was awarded to the Native American Community Clinic to expand its clinic located in Minneapolis and expand culturally-based care. This funding will also allow the clinic to double its size and impact, from serving 5,000 unique patients to 10,000.
“On behalf of the staff and board of the Native American Community Clinic, we are very grateful to Tina Smith and MN Congressional Delegation for recognizing the urgency and importance of health equity in our community,” said Dr. Antony Stately, President of the Native American Community Clinic. “This investment will help us to continue to deliver on our mission to promote the health and wellness of mind, body and spirit in Native American families and increase our clinic footprint in the community and expand on critical healthcare services to our relatives in a community they had some of the worst health disparities in the State, and among the hardest hit by the COVID19 pandemic.”
$350,000 was awarded to the American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center (AIOIC) to develop new job training programs in heavy equipment operation and elder care. These funds will specifically allow the AIOIC to help workers who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic get back to work.
“The American Indian OIC is incredibly grateful for the advocacy of Senator Tina Smith on behalf of our community and on behalf of our organization. With this investment by the federal government, spearheaded by Senator Smith, the American Indian OIC will be able to further increase our efforts to onboard our community members into meaningful careers through our training and employment placement programs, including our work specifically with indigenous youth and indigenous elders,” said Dr. Joe Hobot, President and CEO of American Indian OIC.“This investment could not have come at a more critical time as our community continues to rebound from the disproportionate negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted on our people. Wopila Tanka (A great “thank you” in Lakota) to Senator Tina Smith for your leadership and ongoing partnership with the American Indian community, and specifically the American Indian OIC!”
Expanding Access to STEM Education and Supporting Students with Disabilities
$400,000 awarded to Ignite Afterschool to develop a statewide Minnesota STEM Ecosystems Network. The funds will support the public-private partnership between Ignite Afterschool and their partner organization South East Service Cooperative. Their combined effort will increase access, opportunity and identify gaps to STEM experiences by youth in Minnesota.
“Our shared prosperity depends on inspiring and preparing the next generation of STEM professionals,” said Kari Denissen Cunnien, Executive Director of Ignite Afterschool. “We are grateful to Senator Smith for supporting efforts that deepen the quality of out of school STEM learning and the partnerships that build ecosystems and ladders of support for young people in communities across Minnesota, especially for those most underrepresented in STEM fields.”
$449,000 awarded to Best Buddies International, Inc. for the ‘Best Buddies in Minnesota Inclusion Project’ which will reduce social barriers by fostering meaningful friendships between students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their general education peers.
“Minnesota is fortunate to have Senator Smith because she recognizes that connection, belonging, and social inclusion are imperative for creating strong and healthy communities,” said Katey DeMarais, State Director for Best Buddies in Minnesota. “Thanks to the Senator’s advocacy, Best Buddies will be able to use these funds to expand our one-to-one friendship programs to more schools and communities throughout the state, sending a powerful message that people with intellectual disabilities are valued members of our society and deserve to be included.”
Investing in Economic Development for African Americans in the Rondo Community
$1,500,000 awarded to ReConnect Rondo for their ‘Rondo Net-Zero Community.’ The Net Zero Energy building will serve as offices for the ReConnect Rondo organization as well as an environmental justice and sustainability education center and community gathering space.
“Climate change is an important issue to be addressed,” said Keith Baker, Executive Director of ReConnect Rondo. “Receiving these monies mean at the community level we can advance the project to educate and engage residents around carbon reduction, model real time 21st century innovations and establish a prototype for studying scalability and benefits to residents – particularly as we consider potential for creating a community land bridge to reigniting an African American cultural enterprise district.”
Senator Smith has been an active advocate in pushing for these projects to be funded as part of the federal spending bill, which President Biden signed into law on March 15. Allocating funds to specific state projects like this has not been provided by Congress for the last decade, making this multi-million dollar investment in the Twin Cities critical for advancing important projects across the metro area.