by Scott McClallen
Gov. Tim Walz said $853 million will be distributed statewide to provide relief to Minnesotans battered by the COVID-19 pandemic starting the week of June 29.
The money comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
About $841 million will fund government services and businesses in Minnesota counties, cities, and towns, while $12 million will fund food banks.
Local government groups have urged Walz to distribute the money in the formula decided by the legislature, which failed to pass the bill during its special session.
Counties will share $467 million, cities will get $350 million, and towns will receive almost $24 million.
“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 statement. “This funding will bring much-needed relief to communities across the state as we continue to battle this pandemic together.”
According to the state, local governments must return unspent money to the state by Dec. 10, 2020, and must repay improperly spent funds.
“The Department of Revenue has a long track record of distributing aid to local governments,” Department of Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly said in a statement. “The infrastructure already in place will ensure this aid is distributed quickly and accurately.”
League of Minnesota Cities Executive Director David Unmacht thanked government leaders, saying the funds “will be critical for cities across the state that have experienced unbudgeted costs while executing a response to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the residents in their communities.”
Unmacht said cities had modified operations so they could keep providing essential services to residents.
“Although the federal funding cannot be used to replace lost revenue, the erosion of city revenues over the past several months has challenged cities even further as they continue to respond to the pandemic,” Unmacht said in a statement. “The League will continue to work with our U.S. Congressional delegation to secure additional federal assistance to address the steep loss of revenues affecting city operations.”
Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities President and Willmar City Council member Audrey Nelsen welcomed the announcement, which came more than 90 days after Congress passed the CARES act, and thanked Walz for keeping the same distribution formula.
“Cities and counties are on the front lines of the pandemic response, and this funding will allow them to recoup some of the unexpected expenses incurred over the past several months,” Nelson said in a statement.
“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.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.