ST. PAUL — Local governments around the state will be eligible to receive a piece of an $841 million federal COVID-19 aid appropriation beginning next week.
Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday, June 25, announced he would distribute the funds based on the population of a county, city or town. Local governments have borne a financial burden in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and have seen revenues shrink as businesses were forced to close as the state aimed to limit the coronavirus' spread.
County and city leaders had urged lawmakers to approve the funding last week as part of a special legislative session, but the measure failed after the Democratic-Farmer-Labor led House of Representatives added to the measure Walz's proposed supplemental budget, which included additional aid for families on welfare, personal care attendants and others.
The DFL governor on Thursday announced he would distribute the funds with approval from the Legislative Advisory Commission. And he also proposed spending another $12 million to support food shelves and food banks. The money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act can be used to fund local government services, grants to businesses, hospitals or individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19.
“As we work to support the health and safety of all Minnesotans during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also taking steps to build a stronger and more equitable economy,” Walz said in a news release. “This funding will bring much-needed relief to communities across the state as we continue to battle this pandemic together.”
Local leaders on Saturday blasted legislators for leaving St. Paul without passing the measure or a bill to allow the state to borrow to fund construction projects around the state. But city and county officials on Thursday said they were glad to see the funds come through.
"After waiting more than 90 days since Congress passed the CARES Act, I’m happy and relieved to see that local governments will finally receive their share of this funding," Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities President and Willmar City Council Member Audrey Nelsen said in a news release. "COVID-19 has had a major impact on every corner of the state — even the areas that have not been hit by a wave of cases — and this funding will help local governments continue to deal with the public health crisis and start to revive their local economies."
Senate leaders grew frustrated and closed out the special session Saturday, June 20, after Democrats added the additional spending to the proposal that had been approved by lawmakers in both chambers. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said the move to get the funds out the door was a good step.
“It is important that our local communities get that. As a result of shutting everything down, businesses not being able to pay taxes and do all the things they do, all of our local governments are hurting right now,” Gazelka said.
On Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that nine more Minnesotans died after becoming sickened with the coronavirus and 365 more tested positive for the illness.
The new totals bring the number of Minnesotans to perish from COVID-19 and its complications to 1,406 and the number to have been confirmed positive for the illness to 34,123.
Minnesotans who died from the illness ranged in age from one in their 40s to one who was more than 100 years old. Four resided in private residences while five lived in long-term care facilities. The individuals lived in Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties.
The number of Minnesotans requiring intensive care to combat the illness ticked up to 162 on Thursday, up two from Wednesday, and the total number of people hospitalized reached 336. The number of Minnesotans who'd tested positive for the illness and were able to move out of isolation since the pandemic struck the state reached 29,854.
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