Walz-Flanagan

Gov. Tim Walz speaks with reporters on June 20 at the State Capitol in St. Paul. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan is at right. (Mark Zdechlik/MPR News)

Local governments around Minnesota will be splitting $841 million in federal aid to help pay for costs incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money, part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, will be split up to Minnesota’s counties and cities based on population. Counties will get about $120 per resident, while cities will get $75 per resident and small towns $25 per resident.

A separate $12 million will be allocated toward food shelves and food banks.

Hennepin and Ramsey counties already received direct aid earmarked for communities with more than 500,000 people, and won’t get any more money, though cities within those counties are eligible for their share of the $841 million.

This formula was negotiated by leaders in the Minnesota Legislature, but a bill to distribute it was left unpassed when the special session collapsed last week. Walz’s declaration of a peacetime emergency to battle COVID-19 gave him the legal authority to distribute the money.

The governor had preferred different ways of distributing the money, including a desire to hold back some of the $841 million in reserve to help local governments pay for costs incurred in future outbreaks. But he ultimately decided to stick with the Legislature’s formula for distributing all of the money by population.

“This funding will bring much-needed relief to communities across the state as we continue to battle this pandemic together,” Walz said in a statement.

David Unmacht, executive director for the League of Minnesota Cities, said local governments have had to “modify their operations, purchase equipment and redeploy staff” as a result of COVID-19, all from budgets set last fall that didn’t anticipate a pandemic.

Local governments can apply for their share of the money through forms available on the Department of Revenue’s website. The first checks will begin going out next week. All funds must be spent on approved COVID-19-related areas by the end of the year.

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