Koochiching County and the cities within it should make plans for how they will use $841 million in federal CARES Act funding - when released by the state, Rep. Rob Ecklund told fellow members of the Koochiching Economic Development Authority Board Monday.
Ecklund reported the county would receive $1.6 million and International Falls would receive $462,439 under a bill approved last week by the Minnesota House.
However, the Legislature adjourned its special session before reaching agreement between the House and Senate version of the bills. The Senate passed a version of the bill prior to the House vote. That version did not have amendments added by the House. That leaves the decision for distribution up to Gov. Tim Walz.
"I hope the county and cities are working on plans for when it's released," Ecklund said during the meeting. "If it's not released now, it will be soon."
Per capita, the bill appropriates $121 for counties, $75.34 for cities and townships with populations 5,000 or greater, and $25 for towns between 200 and 5,000 people, Ecklund said in a news release. The bill includes $30 million in one-time grants to help cities, counties, and towns that are COVID-19 hot spots.
He said in general, the federal dollars can be used for items that are a direct response to COVID-19, but cannot be used to cover a decline in revenue for a city, town or county. Counties are required to use at least 10 percent of the funding for emergency financial assistance for individuals - including help with overdue rent, and economic support for businesses- including assistance to those that closed voluntarily because of COVID.
"Our cities and counties need it," Ecklund said Monday. "Some places really were hit more than others."
Part of the contention between the two bills was whether to keep back money for hot spots or release it all under the formula, he said, suggesting there will be another federal funding package coming.
KEDA Director Paul Nevanen told the board that a portion of the funds are directed at business and economic relief, but plans must be in place. County officials, and Joanne Smith, Small Business Development Center consultant, are developing application processes to be prepared to distribute when the money is available.
- Heard from county Commissioner Brian McBride, KEDA and airport commission member, that airport traffic remains down - now 98.9 percent as opposed to 99.9 percent a few months ago, he joked. Closure of the international border, again extended to July 21, has played a large role in the decreased traffic. Meanwhile, runway reconstruction and other projects at the airport continue.
- Heard from Nevanen that he will continue to seek financial assistance for the cold weather testing operations, since the pandemic caused cancellations by testers scheduled to use, and pay for, the facilities. He also reported that he met with an entrepreneur in Birchdale that needs more space for their business.
- Set the next meeting for 9 a.m. Aug. 27.