Honorable Governor Walz:
As the mayors of Iron Range communities we recognize the significant pressures that you have endured as the first Governor since the 1918 Spanish flu plague to deal with a global pandemic. We respect your leadership and the courage, wisdom and commitment to follow the science as you have made difficult and challenging decisions impacting the lives of every citizen in this great state. You are dealing with a divided Legislature and subject to criticism from many who have not agreed with all of your decisions and the use of your Executive authority granted to you under the Peacetime emergency declaration. As mayors we may have not always agreed but we have also declared emergencies in our communities and made similar difficult decisions impacting our local residents often in lock step with you, Governor Walz.
The Federal Government has taken action during the pandemic to assist with States, healthcare and national security. They have also passed COVID 19 relief bills with the largest to date being the CARES Act. This Act provided financial relief to all 50 states with Minnesota receiving just under $2.2 Billion dollars. $300 million of that went directly to Hennepin and Ramsey Counties as they met the threshold of having over 500,000 in population. Of the balance, per Federal law, 45% of the CARES Act dollars are to be allocated to local governments. That equates to $667 million dollars that many local governments desperately need during this pandemic. Governor under the Peacetime Emergency, you have the authority to allocate those funds following federal guidelines. Other states have issued large percentages of those funds on a per capita basis back to the local governments they are intended for.
As mayors we are aware of the politics occurring in St. Paul. Legislators are clamoring for more inclusion in your decision making from the “stay at home” to the allocation of these Federal CARES Act dollars. Bills have been introduced in both the Senate and the House that provide for remittance of those funds based on per capita basis no later than June 15th. Immediately after release of the Senate bill a number of metro based cities and even Hennepin County began clamoring for a different system of allocation so that they would get a larger portion of the funds than other out state communities or counties.
Governor Walz, when you ran for governor, your mantra was “One Minnesota.” A state where location and county lines or population would not make the difference in the opportunities and support we would see from you as Governor. Now more than ever, we need you to stand behind your words and your commitment to rural Minnesota. Those funds are sitting idly in St. Paul when they should be distributed to the local governments
Local governments are now facing a loss of revenue in early July due to many county boards waiving late fees for property tax payers who may miss the May 15 deadline. Local government budgets rely on those regular deposits from State and County payments putting additional pressure on mayors and other elected officials to make difficult budgetary decisions during the most trying of times. Downtown businesses have been shuttered and the uncertainty remains as to how many will actually re-open when you grant them the privilege of doing so.
As stated at the beginning, as mayors we recognize the many challenges that you are facing as the leader of our state. On a lesser scale, we are faced with similar decisions for our residents and communities. The Federal government has acted to provide us with some relief and we are asking that you do all that you can to initiate an expedient an equitable process to distribute those CARES Act dollars to our local governments.
Iron Range Mayors:
Gary Tibbetts City of Aitkin
Andrea Zupanich City of Babbitt
John Klarich City of Buhl
Bob Vlaisavljevich City of Eveleth
Karl Oberstar Jr. City of Gilbert
Rick Cannata City of Hibbing
Gary Skalko City of Mt. Iron
John Tuorila City of Calumet
Jim Weikum City of Biwabik
William King City of Keewatin
Larry Cuffe City of Virginia
Chris Swanson City of Two Harbors
Dave DeNoyer City of Floodwood
Chuck Novak City of Ely
Chris Vreeland City of Hoyt Lakes
Calvin Saari City of Nashwauk
Douglas Gregor City of Aurora
Tony Nygard City of McKinley
Orlyn Kringstad City of Tower
John Champa City of Chisholm