Duluth, St. Louis County to receive millions in COVID-19 relief funds
The funds are intended to “keep first responders, frontline health workers and vital service providers safe in the workplace” as the vaccine rollout continues, and “fight to rebuild the economies on Main Street,” according to a report from the committee. The funds can also be used to replace lost, delayed or reduced revenue from the pandemic.
Kevin Gray, St. Louis County administrator, welcomed the news.
“$ 54 million is incredibly significant funding,” Gray said in a statement. “We are so grateful and excited about the opportunity these federal St. Louis County stimulus programs offer to help our residents and businesses struggling with the pandemic.”
Gray said the funding was more than double what the county received through last year’s CARES bill. This law allowed the county to help people through grants to small businesses, community organizations, nonprofits, and school districts.
“Now we’re getting more than double that amount, and it’s exciting to imagine the good we’ll achieve,” said Gray. “The longer timeframe for using these funds (late 2024) is also greatly appreciated. We will certainly move forward quickly knowing the need is great. However, this also allows us to be strategic in developing a plan that will a variety of means serves needs in our great county. “
The Mayor of Duluth, Emily Larson, also thanked them for the funds.
Emily Larson, Mayor of Duluth (Photo courtesy of the City of Duluth)
“This is an absolutely incredible bill to meet the growing needs of residents in every corner of the country,” Larson told the News Tribune. “I am excited about what this can do to stabilize our economy and the bright future of the people in Duluth.”
Larson said city officials have been working on figuring out the city’s financial cost for the pandemic since it arrived in the area a year ago.
“We have experience with crises like windstorms and blizzards, so we’re really good at calculating the financial cost of these elements,” said Larson. “We knew within the first six weeks that the cost would not be in the range of $ 1-2 million. We’re talking tens of millions in financial terms.”
As of April 2020, the city was forecasting a deficit of over $ 39 million due to losses from collecting property, sales, and tourism taxes. Larson said she communicated her concerns about the lost revenue and people’s problems with U.S. Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar while they were working on this bill.
“We went into our reserves and into our rainy day funds to get things going. We took a more aggressive, conservative financial approach to contain costs and keep us afloat,” said Larson. “So it feels good to know that the federal government has seen this pain and recognized that it is not sustainable.”
As the city will use and distribute the funds, Larson said they are “not ready to discuss plans publicly” as they are still “looking at the fine print of the bill”. However, she stressed that she does not want to “inherit higher costs” by using these one-off funds in such a way “that costs rise later”.